South Africa needs a good president – now if only we could figure out what that means

When you’re in an academic environment, you’ll notice two types of academics; those who love research and those who love holding office.

It’s incredibly rare to find a person who wants both, completely. Anybody would tell you that becoming dean of the faculty is academic suicide, but to some, the notion of doing less research and running the show is appealing.

I have no idea who will be leading the country by the time this is published and frankly, I’m tired of guessing President Ramaphosa’s next move.

Let him go. Let him stay. It hardly changes much when his own party can hardly hold onto themselves. But somebody has to be president, right?

Also Read: Ramaphosa to address the nation amid Phala Phala saga

Did we ever really want Cyril? I mean, we just didn’t want Zuma anymore, but did we want Cyril specifically? Why? He was good in business, we were told.

I even bought a few burgers to support CR17. He wasn’t corrupt but now there’s this prima facie thing to contend with.

Oh, and he had some sort of vision, though with age that’s become blurry. In retrospect, there was little that Ramaphosa brought to the table other than not being Zuma .

That’s not to say that we shouldn’t give credit where it’s due.

The Zondo Commission was a hard-fought, positive victory and it was nice to have a slightly stronger economy for those few days back in 2018.

The same can be said of the ruling party. For all its present-day awfulness, they’ve done some things that otherwise wouldn’t have been done, though good and bad.

Is John a better candidate? Is Julius? That’s an impossible question to answer if you don’t know what you want out of a president.

Also Read: Phala Phala: DA would rather have government dissolved than a Mabuza presidency

To get a better sense, it would be wise to look at somebody who is being begged from all corners to lead the country politically: Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, or as he is more commonly known, “That Gift of the Givers Guy”.

I don’t think anybody could give me a one-pager on the dude. His Wikipedia entry is hardly half of that yet he’s been able, passively, to galvanise support for a position he doesn’t want.

How? We know he’s awesome! We know Gift of the Givers is awesome! We know some of the work they’ve done, but that’s about it and yet we’re wanting him to be president?

By no means am I suggesting he’s underqualified and I’ll admit, I too would like to see somebody of his calibre lead the nation, while admitting I hardly know what his calibre is. It’s just very telling and shows what I think we want in a political leader.

It seems to be only two things.

We want somebody who genuinely cares, and has the stamina to put that care to action.

We don’t have that, and possibly haven’t for decades.

Even if you wanted to argue that Cyril cares, his care is blocked by another 85 people, who in turn are playing to the loves of a couple of other thousand people, and by the time it comes to crunch, everything is paralysed or, in our case, broke, after the 5 million Rand welcoming lunch.

It would be delightful to have Sooliman at the top, but like that academic keeping the publishing schedule on track in the faculty, becoming the dean may be a career step up, but not necessarily one that improves the work output.

The presidency is a position that asks a lot of a person.

Whether Sooliman is up to the task is neither here nor there. We should be asking whether the person can leverage the presidency to do what is good for the country.

We need somebody who cares less about themselves but one would need a tremendous ego to reach that stage in the first place. I mean, it must take a lot to tell yourself that 60 million people want you to lead them.

The sad conclusion is that it appears as though one of the criteria we’re looking for in a president is a strong desire not to be president.

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