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Sunday, 17 April 2016

SPEAKING TRUTH TO POWER

I recently heard ex-Constitutional Court Judge Zak #Yacoob speaking at a function held by @BowmanGilfillan. Although his talk was on a non-contentious subject, it followed the day after the #Zuma #impeachment debate in  #Parliament the previous week. It also followed some public comments he had made saying that he was of the view that President Zuma should step down. The most notable part of his talk was his call for the need for people to “speak truth to power”.

He was saying of course that, even when a relationship is unequal in terms of power, if the powerful person is behaving unethically or inconsistently with the law or other values, it is incumbent on the person ostensibly having less power to speak his or her truth. Judge Yacoob said that, when he had been an activist against Apartheid, he had spoken up without fear of the inevitable reprisal from the then Government. Now (in the Zuma context) he was speaking despite fear of reprisal.

Like so many others who spoke out against Apartheid, Judge Yacoob is a courageous man. To put it bluntly, it takes balls to speak out against any power, whether it be a Government, employer or military power, even when your truth is a stand against evil and immorality. Reprisals can and often do follow. Somehow, the person who speaks the truth becomes the villain. Sir Thomas More would have been inclined to agree, had he still been around to tell his tale.

But tell the truth we must, no matter how scary that may be, to our partners, our friends, our bosses, our leaders and anyone else who is not living according to the Universal or at least societal laws of morality and justice.

If we don’t speak our truths, we become complicit in and compound the evil. On Monday the week before last I saw an entire ANC caucus do just that in Parliament. To a man they voted in favour of the South African epitome of all that is dishonest, immoral and evil.

How is that for a liberation struggle group who claim to have espoused the Freedom Charter? The excuse for such a disgraceful vote was that, because it was the opposition who had called for the impeachment of the President, they couldn't possibly allow the opposition to tell them what to do. So they voted against the impeachment. The logic seems to have escaped them that it was more important for them not to lose face than to vote morally and with their hearts. It also passed them by that, if they had done the right thing and driven the impeachment process themselves in the first place based on what was morally and constitutionally the correct thing to do, the opposition could not have claimed a victory. 

Sometimes it's a struggle to tell the truth because of other dynamics at play. But not telling the truth comes at a great cost.

If you're unwilling to tell the truth, the real question is: So what price for your soul?

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