Most of us do not do right things because we are afraid of the police. We do the right things because it is the right thing to do. If the majority of us were to behave properly only because we feared law enforcement agencies, then there would be no police service or courts big enough to ensure law and order.
Societal ethics and morals enjoin most of us to do the right things most of the time. It is not what the legal implications of our actions would be, but how society would view our actions or utterances. Batho ba tla reng? Abantu ba zothini?
These days, it appears ethics, especially in public life, have been thrown into the dustbin in favour of dubious legalities. The stock refrain is: “Everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.” The ethical or moral sides of issues appear to be of no consequence.
So it is that it does not appear to be a shame to be hauled before a court of law to answer to wrong doing. After all, you become a rock star to be adored and feted by supporters when you appear before a court of law for rape, racketeering, human trafficking, money laundering and theft.
One Tim Omotoso, a senior pastor in the Jesus Dominion International, is accused of raping and trafficking young women in his church. Crowds, made up mostly of women, attend his court cases regularly to demand his release and sing his praises.
What kind of people have we become? Is he supposed to be above the law? Does pounding the bible mean that you are untouchable and can harm people as you please?
Then you have Sherpherd Bushiri and his wife Mary, who have caused a serious diplomatic incident between South Africa and his home country by skipping bail and fleeing to Malawi from where he has been making outrageous demands and statements.
The Bushiri’s are being accused of serious crimes, including fraud and theft involving more than a hundred million rands. Yet, many of our people do not want him to answer to these charges. They were seen protesting outside the Pretoria magistrate’s court demanding his release and the abandonment of the case by the state.
The couple is indeed filthily rich, boasting of millions of rands in properties that include houses, hotels, private jets and other businesses. He came into South Africa and made a fortune by declaring himself a prophet, vindicating the assertion that if you want to be rich quickly in South Africa, you should start your own church.
Other people had earlier laid charges of rape and other serious crimes against Sherpherd. Yet, as far as some South Africans are concerned, he should be left alone.
On Friday the 13th November 2020, we saw even bigger throngs of people singing, dancing and denouncing the criminal justice system in front of the Bloemfontein magistrate’s court in support of Ace Magashule who is facing numerous charges that include theft, fraud, money laundering and corruption. His involves more than R255 million meant for the removal of asbestos roofs from some houses for the poor in the Free State.
In the past, we have seen others passionately demonstrating in front of courts of law in support of Jacob Zuma in his own brushes with the law, again involving corruption, malfeasance and related crimes. It is now fashion in South Africa to glamourize crime and turn its perpetrators into heroes.
What kind of people have we become? Why should many of us glorify rapists, thieves and swindlers instead of God?
We are not saying those who are accused are guilty, but that we should let the law take its course in instances where crimes are suspected. Let us not turn accused persons into rock stars.