I happened to be awake when it was announced that Jacob Zuma of South Africa was going to address a press conference. Given the events that had taken place in the preceding few weeks and the fact that their parliament was due to pass a vote of no confidence in him the following day at the instigation of his own ANC party, there was no doubt on anybody’s mind what the press conference was all about.
Sure enough he did not disappoint. He gave a well articulated speech at the end of which he offered to resign with immediate effect.
Zuma is no longer the president of the biggest economy in Africa and Cyril Ramaphosa, who in any case had been elected president of the ANC not so long ago, is the new leader.
Jacob Zuma should have seen the writing on the wall for, indeed, that is more or less the manner in which he had become national president after he was elected president of ANC when Thabo Mbeki was the sitting president.
In spite of all the dust he had generated trying to resist resignation, his final speech redeemed him a little bit. The bottom line of the speech was that he would respect the constitution of the party he had served for all his life and that of his nation.
The reasons he was being ousted were several but he chose not to respond to any of them. Rather, he focused on two reasons why he was resigning. That he was committed to his party which is over a hundred years old and to the constitution of his nation. That, to me, is a mark of a civilised society.
Aware of our political situation, I had no choice but to ask myself a few questions. How many of our political “leaders” or the rest of us Kenyans can talk about consistent commitment to any one political party? How many of our leaders can claim to know what party they will belong to in the next elections? How many of them – including those who claim they fought hard for its establishment - can claim to be totally and sincerely committed to our national constitution?
The main reason we find ourselves in the political problems we get ourselves into is our inability to answer the questions above. Many of us simply have no commitment to any political party that has a specific guiding philosophy leave alone any respect or knowledge of such a party’s constitution.
Many of us behave as if respect and commitment to the national constitution is the preserve of those in government. On the contrary, every citizen must respect the rule of law.
The writer is dean of students at the University of Nairobi [email protected]