My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
The sad fact is that Jacob Zuma and Thabo Mbeki seem to represent the worst the ANC could offer in the line of leadership and also seem to bring out the worst in each other. We always blame President Mbeki for his paranoia and his tendency to spot enemies under every bush while warning us against the Dark Forces out to destroy the ANC, leader of the national democratic revolution.
But of course, although the President started this sad decent into the world of conspiracy theories and victimhood way back when he forced Mr Zuma to declare publicly that he had no ambition to become President, Mr. Zuma has neatly used this atmosphere of suspicion against the President to elicit sympathy from the masses of our people.
Now the two both fan the flames of conspiracy and victimhood in attempts to get the upper hand in the so called succession battle. In the process they are both hurting the ANC and, of course, the country.
In most other democracies Mr Zuma would have been politically dead long ago. Although he has not (yet) been convicted of any crime, his financial adviser Schabir Shaik, has been convicted of giving him a bribe. Yet he Mr Zuma never explained how this does not make him a crook himself. He used to say that he wished he could get the opportunity to tell his side of the story but when he was charged and given the opportunity to do just that, he and his lawyers used the vast resources provided by the state to do everything in their power to prevent him from having to provide his side of the story.
That said, at least he is not Thabo Mbeki. He might have had sex without a condom and might have claimed that taking a shower helps to prevent HIV transmission but at least he has never doubted the link between HIV and AIDS and at least he has not endorsed a Health Minister who believes people must be given a choice between taking anti-retroviral drugs and garlic and beetroot.
So, I will not vote for the ANC while either Mbeki or Zuma leads the organisation, but if I had to choose between the two I am not as sure as I was a year ago that I would choose President Mbeki. Maybe Mr Zuma will listen to advice? Maybe he will admit mistakes and face up to them? Maybe he will show that he cares about the suffering of ordinary people. Maybe he would feel so embarrassed about taking a bribe that he will come down heavily against corruption in government.
Stranger things have happened in politics.