It’s not any politician’s finest hour when he or she features on the front page of almost every Sunday paper for allegedly sleeping around and leaving a supposed trail of email evidence.
We’ve learnt enough from the #GuptaLeaks to understand that no email is safe anymore. WhatsApp groups are dangerous things too these days. You have to watch what you say and do – at times more for morality’s sake, perhaps decorum, than any other reason.
This is the curious case with Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, accused of having multiple affairs.
The deputy president’s wife came out in support of her husband at the weekend as he tried, without success, to stop a Sunday paper from publishing email information obtained.
Ramaphosa also admitted to having an affair eight years ago. The story, although scandalous and tabloid fodder, doesn’t point to a man who committed any obvious crime.
Nowhere does it become clear that Ramaphosa acted outside the law, used state resources in an illegal way, stole our tax money or colluded with any other party in a grand attempt to capture the state. On the contrary, the argument is made that state resources may have been used to access his correspondence.
On the state capture point – as South Africans we know what this looks like, we are in the midst of it, we’ve been dragged through aspects of it for months. This is none of that.
Quite frankly, I am much more concerned about how the country is currently run and how and where our tax money is being (mis)spent, than what the deputy president does behind closed doors.
I am concerned about the fact that President Jacob Zuma, he famously of the 783 charges, is still at the helm and running the country like all is well.
I’m concerned about an e-toll system that has Gautengers livid, state-owned entities limping from crisis to crisis and the cost of living giving me a run for my drying up stash of cash.
I have conversations with struggling students about how their fees will be paid next year as we await government’s guidance on what will ultimately happen. Yet here we are, fixated on Ramaphosa and his dirty laundry.
Ramaphosa and his supporters point to a smear campaign that has now been launched to discredit him ahead of the ANC’s December elective conference. They have a point. The timing of these revelations is just too impeccable. Ramaphosa himself has not spoken about each and every claim made and every sordid detail revealed but really, why should he?
Around the world the dirty smear campaign tactic is an old and useful one, used to discredit especially politicians.
As we all pitch in with our two cents’ worth, clinical psychologist and psycho-social commentator Bradley R. Daniels argues that South Africans have become morally absurd when it comes to this very issue.
Daniels says unlike the United States for instance, South African society is very ambiguous about the standards it sets and the standards it follows.
If the same standards of “immorality” are followed, Daniels argues, then a host of past and present high flying individuals should have been booted out of their positions a while ago. He believes the matter is a private one, for the Ramaphosa family to deal with, although the behaviour perhaps points to a leader not practising what he preaches.
Daniels says the way South Africans approach the topic of sex and sexual behaviour is still under construction – as we start the honest conversations about how the specific behavioural practice of unprotected sex can affect lives.
He highlights that we have not even ventured into the space of the different arrangements people have in their relationships – that also have nothing to do with other people or the position they might hold in society.
This might not have been the case in the Ramaphosa saga but it may just be the point at which we, as a South African public, need to become more aware of the diverse society and postmodern world we find ourselves in.
Just as any other preference, what people do with their own sexuality and how they express it, will not please you all of the time. It won’t always be your cup of tea, and that’s OK because it’s none of your business.
Daniels refers to American society where this type of revelation could seriously harm a candidate in the running for a top job. In that particular society, the picture perfect American dream scenario is important to many and for them, it must stay intact.
Leaders are held to almost impossible standards, where you cannot behave like the ordinary person on the street because your life is somewhat aspirational and judged differently.
We need to guard against this as South Africans. We, as ordinary people, can become leaders. Our lives aren’t all untainted by scandal or controversy. We err. And so did Ramaphosa. But that’s none of my business – or yours.
– Faith Daniels is a seasoned radio and TV journalist, and is currently head of news at Kagiso Media’s Jacaranda FM and East Coast Radio.