Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
We have kicked off 2013 with the President of South Africa publically endorsing corruption.
Last week, as the ANC celebrated its 101st anniversary with a gala dinner and auction in Durban, President Zuma assured the deep-pocketed gathering that businessmen who become ANC members will see their fortunes multiplying.
“…your business will multiply. Everything you touch will multiply. I’ve always said that a wise businessperson will support the ANC, because supporting the ANC means you’re investing very well in your business.”
Unsurprisingly, the night’s auction raised R21.4 million for the ANC. This was clearly a promise of “you rub my back and I’ll rub yours”, and the tenderpreneurs must have been rubbing their hands with glee.
Opposition parties were quick to point out that this statement by the country’s President is embarrassing to say the least, and at worst openly endorses corruption. The ANC’s response was that we don’t understand African customs; the President was merely wishing businessmen good fortune as a gesture of appreciation for their support. I am an African. In fact, I am the traditional Prime Minister of the Zulu Nation, and I certainly didn’t get the impression that the President was saying, “Oh bless your heart for being so generous”.
Corruption is a plague at the heart of our democracy. The President should know better than to speak like this. But as the Bible says, out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.
I may be chastised for quoting the Bible, or for openly declaring my Christian faith. It seems, looking at our media, that hostility towards faith-based worldviews is gaining pace. People prefer to speak about inalienable human rights, rather than about issues of morality. Yet for centuries the greatest minds have grappled with the means to balance the rights of all individuals within a society. The problem is not easily solved, because legality cannot adequately replace morality. The two must be brought into harmony.
Let me phrase this in a way that will be more readily accepted. There are specific challenges in South Africa that we need to address: job creation, poverty, service delivery. But underlying all we do is the necessity of shaping a society that is responsible, caring and unselfish. Because, in the end, every good policy is implemented by a human being.
Is it better to have someone doggedly fight for your right to education, or to have someone sit down and teach you? That is the difference between what is purely lawful and what is morally right.
I worry that we have again ignored morality, as though it is a dirty word, in the case of legalizing consensual sex between children. The Pretoria High Court ruled this week that children between the ages of 12 and 16 should be legally allowed to have sex with each other.
As a traditional leader, my first duty is to uphold the values and traditional customs of my people. This is certainly not one of our traditions.
I often find that when we ignore morality, we are forced to abandon common sense. The constitutional expert, Professor Pierre de Vos, has argued that “common sense” is nothing more than a reflection of the values of one’s immediate circle. I wonder what he makes of Judge Pierre Rabie’s strange interpretation of the Sexual Offences Act to mean that a child under 16 cannot be kissed on the mouth when relatives come together and greet each other by kissing. Common sense dictates that the kind of kiss to which Judge Rabie refers is not a sexual act, and thus doesn’t fall within the ambit of what the law tries to achieve, which is protecting our children from sexual predators.
Judge Rabie’s ruling this week creates a nonsensical situation in which a 17 year old who has sex with a 16 year old is guilty of statutory rape, while a
16 year old can happily have sex with a 12 year old.
Ironically, the applicants in this case were a clinic for abused children and the Centre for Child Law, who feel that consensual sex between 12 year olds should be legal, so that 12 year old girls will be able to come forward and have abortions.
According to the applicants, 12 year olds charged with a criminal offence for having sex would be “severely harmed”. But wouldn’t having an abortion at the age of 12 also “severely harm” a child? Are children emotionally equipped to make this decision and deal with its psychological consequences?
Of course I agree that it is undesirable for children to get back-street abortions. But wouldn’t it be far better to prevent our children from having to make this decision in the first place?
We, as the adults, are expressing through legislation the undesirability of children having sex, which would lead to unwanted pregnancies, STDs and HIV/Aids, simply because children are not emotionally or psychologically mature enough to make consistently responsible decisions, and the society they live in is not geared toward family planning for children.
A 12 year old finding themselves pregnant is not in a position either financially or emotionally to accept the responsibilities of becoming a parent. We are talking about children still in primary school. Thus pregnancies are highly unlikely to be planned or wanted.
If we think it’s wrong to tell people what they can and can’t do when they are in love, why is it illegal for a man to marry his aunt or his mother-in-law? I’m not asking a rhetorical question. I’m asking us to consider the reasonable argument against making this legal.
Likewise there are reasonable arguments supporting legislation that prevent children from driving, voting or drinking before they turn 18. Surely it is common sense that a child who is not considered “old enough” to work, open a bank account, sign legal documents or own property is not “old enough” to understand the consequences of sex, make appropriate moral judgments, exercise wisdom and responsibility, and cope with the emotional fall-out of non-committed relationships.
Would anyone really argue that two 12 year olds can be in a committed relationship with all that entails? We wouldn’t even allow them to marry. In fact, they’d need their parents’ consent as well as the consent of the Minister of Home Affairs. Why then are we allowing them to have sex?
The question of whether a 12 year old is even capable of understanding the repercussions of agreeing to sex, raises further questions about our responsibility to protect children. If they are intimidated into it, and thus “agree”, there can be no basis for protecting them, because it will be considered “consensual sex”.
Nevertheless, the applicants welcomed the court’s ruling, saying, “It promotes the best interests of children by protecting them from being violated by the criminal justice system.” Arguably, if you commit a crime and are prosecuted, you have not been “violated by the criminal justice system”.
It might be difficult for a 17 year old to wait another year for a driver’s licence. They might feel a strong urge to drive. They might even feel they need to drive. But if they go ahead and drive, they have committed a crime.
There are reasons why the law says they must wait, and the consequence of a criminal charge is not just punishment, but deterrent.
Until now, when it comes to sex, we have told our children to wait. The new message is “go ahead, you know best”. Surely we are abdicating our responsibility to guide and protect our children.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP