Something in the soul of the nation has been stirred to make the people come alive. There are winds of change blowing through the minds and hearts of the people and a new moral principle is emerging. This refreshing spirit wants to hold authority accountable. The people will no longer be afraid to challenge authority. They seem to have, finally, come to understand that no power has authority unless it is based on the will of the people.

The purpose of power, especially in a democracy, is to serve the interests of the people to fulfil their aspirations. Leaders will only be seen as deserving allegiance when they can guarantee that they will not take people who give them power for granted. As we go forward to a new future what will be expected will be for leaders to carry out the wishes and aspirations of the people. They must be seen to deliver. When this does not happen there is bound to be chaos accompanied by violence in our society. Bekkersdal is an ominous sign. And so is Marikana, where everything is tense and explosive.

It is clearly evident that the people have had enough of being taken for granted. There is a ground swell of disillusionment with the few getting richer while the many watch the spectacle of self-enrichment. Those who will take up positions in the new government as Ministers, MECs or even ward councillors, and in State-owned entities, must be aware of this principle: power will be held accountable! If they do not practice or follow it they will be responsible for taking this country down. The so called violent service delivery protests in Bekkersdal or Carletonville, for instance, will look like a Sunday school picnic.

It is time that positions and power in public institutions were used for the benefit of the people. No government can rightly claim authority unless it is going to fulfil its promises by doing what the people require. When you go forward to accept a position of public leadership be aware that you are going to serve. Your position makes you, automatically, a servant of the people. Those who are not willing to serve but think that positions and power are about self-aggrandisement and self-enrichment are in for a big shock. Rather not accept the appointment. To the extent that this wind of change is blowing through this country, those who will survive will be those who are servants of the people.

After 20 years, the people have woken up to the greed and selfishness that has almost become a way of life in eMzansi. Everybody wants what they can get for themselves and will get what they want by any means necessary. This rapacious disease is not and has never been confined to the public service. In fact, it is even more rampant in the private sector where CEOs and other directors have a seemingly unlimited appetite for power and self-entitlement. If all those in positions of power do not check their greed, the deep-seated and currently simmering resentment, anger and frustration will, ultimately, explode into violence, death and self-destruction. The guns will return with the bloodshed. Houses and offices will burn. People will be hacked to death. The high walls and barricades will not be enough. And the guns that are pointed at places like Marikana, Bekkersdal, Carletonville and other flashpoints will run out of people to pull the triggers on behalf of those who abuse their position. Remember that even the security guards and helpers want what the Haves have. Alas it will be 14 year old at the forefront of the new class struggle. They will lead the chorus of new freedom songs.

Service delivery protests have been going on in Bekkersdal on the West Rand since 2013.
Service delivery protests have been going on in Bekkersdal on the West Rand since 2013.

So those who think they can use position and power without a sense of morality that makes them obligated to the people must be warned. It is becoming increasingly dangerous here. The more they use position to force things down the more they are likely to encounter resistance and defiance. It will not work to throw weight around just for the sake of it. Or because you have a position. The people have come to understand that in a democracy leadership is about doing the right thing here and now. And the guardians of democracy will be there to see that things are done the right way. The new moral force requires that leaders subordinate their egos to be truly connected to the people and their needs, otherwise the country will go down. Those who have nothing have nothing to lose. It is for this reason that they are always quick to burn and loot and burn some more.

We at the precipice. What held us back was the eagerness to use the ballot box and not the bullet to choose leaders. The people turned out in great numbers and they have spoken. But now all eyes are on the next logical step and the people await the appointment of the new cabinet, new premier and new MECs, mayors and councillors. Even if they are old faces they will have to fast learn to do things in a new way.

Rest assured that that when the inauguration has taken place on the eve of Africa Day – that is, 24 May – the people will be ready to move in any direction. From what I have observed, there is a new moral principle stirring the consciousness of the people. And the minds and hearts of the people in eMzansi have been awakened. I hope and pray that this reading is neither over simplification nor overly optimistic.

The people do not have patience for the Second Coming of the Son of Man. By the time Jesus returns, He should find eMzansi has already been turned into a paradise. And this the leaders can do if they so choose and have the political will. If they don’t, we in for a very long haul. God will only help us when we help ourselves.

Sandile Memela is the author of “Zenzele: Young Gifted & Free” ( Porcupine Press African Narratives 2014)