As an active Councillor I am often insulted for issues over which I have no control. For example, I have been accused of being liable for increasing the rates, electricity and water to augment my salary.
That I am one of the lowest paid Councillors is irrelevant to the accuser as people generally regard all politicians as the same. Even educated people do not readily know the difference between local, provincial and national spheres of government. Thus, I was intrigued when President Zuma recently said “Those who insult leaders in position of authority will be cursed”.
Years ago as a Councillor for the DA, I was often accused by Muslim leaders of being a white lackey, a stooge and a Jew lover as Tony Leon was the DA leader at that time. That I was diligent, accessible to the community and focussed on service delivery and not ideology was considered irrelevant by my critics. Within my broader family I was a pariah as politics was personal. Sharing my experience with DA party elders were futile as the basic response was that, “politics is not for sissies, so buck up”.
Ironically, nowadays my historic critics socialise with the Mayor and most Muslims vote DA.
When the Anglo/Boer war broke out inside the DA and a whispering campaign was started against me
by fellow DA Councillors, I decided to leave. Whispering campaigns are usual in internal party matters and are an effective method of removing those ahead of you in the party hierarchy. Jessie Duarte who worked in the Presidency also fell victim to a whispering campaign and left with public anguish.
Life as an ANC Councillor was worse as any act of corruption or ineptitude at any level of government was somehow also my burden. During the electricity black-outs, resident contact me, as if I was liable.
On occasion I consulted the late Hasan Solomons who was an ANC parliamentarian about the infinite blame and insults. He responded with, “In South Africa when a bicycle gets a flat tyre people look for a politician to blame”.
I recognize some of the President anxiety when he said “If you do not respect those in leadership if you do not respect authority, then you are bordering on a curse”. In this, the media has a role to play.
Every day society is saturated with scurrilous, wall-to-wall generalized character assassination of politicians. In my opinion, any system of leadership [political, social, business etc.] should be open to critique. However, this must be done when the scrutiny is valid and can be verified and not in an indiscriminate derogatory manner.I believe that vague insults are miserable as there is no value in degrading the quality of the current political debate lower than it already is.
Like nursing and teaching I believe that some people are intuitively drawn to the realm of politics. Before council in 2000 I had great prospects and financial security in the employ of the National Department of Environmental Affairs. On my return to Council in 2011, I was working in the Province where I also enjoyed superior financial security. Oddly, I am often accused of being “after the money”.
What money that is, I am never told. When asked, why I remain in politics, I recall the words of Plato the Greek philosopher “One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors”