By Danai Nhando
When someone apologises the courteous thing to do is to respond and in most cases we feel obliged to accept the apology. After listening to the president’s “apology”, I had two choices, to be silent and deal with my concerns privately or to speak out and make my voice heard. I chose to speak out. “Dear Mr President, let it be known to all that I do not accept your apology.”
An apology is a regretful acknowledgement of an offence or failure and Mr President that was not an apology. Not only was it not an apology but it is also just too little, too late. You boldly said: “I wish to emphasise that I never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the Constitution which is the supreme law of the Republic.”
Why did this matter even have to end up in the highest court in the land anyway, it was clear to us all from day one that the Nkandla improvements were not legal. I don’t accept your apology, because it implies that this is just one bad apple, rather than a symptom of widespread corruption, and it paints over enormous problems with useless sentiment.
If your apology is acceptable then every lawbreaker in the country will be able to also say, “I never knowingly or deliberately set out to commit this crime”. The law doesn’t work like that, every action especially one that involves illegality has to have a corresponding consequence. Mr President you said, “It was never my intention not to comply with the public protector’s remedial action or disrespect her office”. If that were true, then why have you for the past two years maintained that you would not pay back any of the money which was used towards the upgrades?
You even went as far as to say you did not ask for them. This lack of accountability has become a norm. Instead of acknowledging your failures and taking full responsibility you pinned it on your legal advisers and because of them you said you acted on the basis of a “different approach and different legal advice”.
I do not accept your apology because I deserve better, we deserve better, our children deserve better. Mr President we crave great leadership. We crave accountability. We crave an active democracy that produces results. Accepting your apology would sanction the backsliding of democracy and it would be an endorsement of the constant plundering of the country in the face of increased poverty and I simply cannot accept that.
Danai Nhando is a human rights lawyer turned equitable education advocate. She is passionate about democratising access to quality education in Africa through open educational solutions. Danai believes that equitable learning advancement does not always require large amounts of resources and she offers professional advisory services to academic institutions on how to set up low-cost, high-impact eLearning initiatives.