EDITORIAL COMMENT: The graveyard of the indispensables

South African businessman and socialite Kenny Kunene is known more for his high-roller lifestyle than for his political astuteness.

People know him better as the Sushi King, not because of the fact that he hit the big time in the seafood business, but because of the 2010 he ate the Japanese specialty off the body of a naked woman, a practice called “nyotaimori”.

But in recent years he has been trying to remodel himself. He has ventured more actively into national politics and dabbled briefly with the Economic Freedom Fighters and then the Patriotic Alliance, where he was secretary-general.

Still, many people consider him a political lightweight and nothing much by way of an ideologue. After all, this is the man who shunned a career as an English teacher and instead chose a life of crime that saw him incarcerated between 1997 and 2003 after being convicted of running a Ponzi scheme.

And upon release he made his bones by marketing Gayton McKenzie, a former criminal who subsequently styled himself as a motivational speaker and politician.

So very few people think of Kunene as a thinker and an articulator of ideas.

Which is why it appeared a bit desperate on the part of the Gupta-owned ANN7 television station to call him in as a political analyst this past Friday.

The news station wanted him to comment on President Jacob Zuma’s Thursday midnight cabinet reshuffle in general, and more particularly on the dissent within the ranks about how Pravin Gordhan and company lost their jobs so unceremoniously.

But that’s the thing, isn’t it? Is there need for ceremony when a President exercises a constitutional executive function of rearranging his team so as to ensure the twin goals of achieving service objectives as well surround him/herself with trustworthy individuals?

Anyway, the debate as to whether President Zuma was right or wrong on his reshuffle is a matter for South Africans.

What is of interest here is King Kunene’s take on the whole matter of loyalty.

ANN7 wanted to know what Kunene thought about the reaction of those around President Zuma – among them very senior somebodies – who were openly criticising their leader’s constitutionally-empowered decision-making.

He said something to the effect that, “There are some people who think they are indispensable. But the graveyards are full of these ‘indispensable’ people. After you are appointed to an office, you can get sick, you can die,, you can get reassigned, but the institution carries on. No one is indispensable.”

Is this a dumb, ex-con, “nyotaimori” practicing, limelight-loving socialite speaking? Is this message not a relevant one for Zimbabwe’s notoriously self-entitled political classes who think that they are untouchable, that they can insult anyone and everyone, that they can pee on people’s faces and expect the masses to call it rain?

What some politicians in Zimbabwe fail to see is that institutions – which organisations are the bureaucratic, legalistic and rational expression of an underlying idea – are larger than individuals.

And it is amazing that even whole professors of public administration, who have in the past licked wounds while admitting that “he with the power to appoint also has the power to disappoint”, fail to appreciate simple things that even a Sushi King knows as basics of politics.

Zimbabwe had Herbert Chitepo. It had Nikita Mangena. It had Jason Ziyapapa Moyo. It had Josiah Tongogara. It has a whole memorial for the Unknown Soldier.

Thousands upon thousands of braves were killed in the Second Chimurenga. We mourn them. We respect them eternally. We will never forget them. On April 18 and again in August we will hail their immeasurable contributions to our revolution.

But the revolution did not stop because they were killed by a racist regime. The revolution could not be stopped. And in Zimbabwe, the idea of revolution is an institution. It carries on regardless of casualties. We had Joshua Nkomo. We had Joseph Msika. We had Simon Muzenda. We had John Landa Nkomo. We grieved their deaths. We celebrated their lives. But we had to continue.

Like their colleagues who fell in the liberation struggle, they never dreamt they were indispensable. They just wanted to play their part to make this a better country. So if the nation can lose people of such great standing, should it tremble at the thought of losing a cabal of self-important and counter-revolutionary poseurs?

Zanu-PF had Edgar Tekere. It had Simba Makoni. It had Dumiso Dabengwa. It had Joice Mujuru. And what happened after they joined the graveyard of seemingly indispensable politicos? Did life not go on?

Kunene’s message is straightforward.

Instead of focusing on an arrogant brand self-aggrandisement and engaging in flights of fancy that lead nowhere except to a perilous cliff, they should strive to get indispensability by doing their jobs as honestly and diligently as possible.

The people have legitimate expectations of value for money for public funds; quality public services; creation of an environment conducive to business and family life; and respect of their human dignity by holders of public office.

Perhaps the ongoing political upheavals will acquaint our political classes with both Kunene’s simple wisdom and the legitimate expectations of the people.

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  • xyz

    Tell that to the lady who thinks that her husband will continue to rule from the grave! Her husband is not indispensable.