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EDITORIAL: Jacob Zuma, president of nine lives

I met with a very wise man recently who generously gave myself and a Sanef colleague several hours of his time.

We spoke about politics and ethics and Constitutional Court rulings. We spoke about leadership, the future and Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000-hour rule. We discussed accountability. He spoke and we listened, chipping in with thoughts and analyses from time to time, but mostly just drinking in his wisdom and his years.

While I won't go into the finer details of our discussions, there was a line which stayed with me for hours after, playing in my head on repeat like a song which refuses to be forgotten. "The only time to do the right thing," he mused, "is now."

While I don't know if this is his quote, or if he borrowed it from elsewhere (Google has been rather unhelpful), it made me pause for a moment and think of just how appropriate and profound that statement is... now.

How important is it that we sit up and listen to that sage advice. Now. Especially now.

But alas, doing the right thing appears not to matter to the president or to the ANC. Doing the right thing is clearly not on the agenda as South Africans were fed yet another round of untruths, inconsistencies and blatant misinformation.

On Friday night, we stopped the presses. The president was addressing the nation, and the ANC was holding a late press conference in response to the Constitutional Court ruling on Nkandla. We scrambled to get info, we 'recalled' reporters to the office and made dramatic U-turns in the traffic in a rushed attempt to get back to the newsroom... many thinking that now was the time. That critical moment in history when doing the right thing, now, actually mattered.

That was not the case, however, and there was to be no late night 'Breaking News' that would reverberate around the world, strengthening our beleaguered currency and restoring hope for millions of South Africans. Instead, we heard the president tell us that he respects the role of Parliament to hold the executive to account, that the judgment has further strengthened our constitutional democracy. He told us that many lessons were learnt, that he welcomed the clarity offered by the ConCourt ruling, that he never knowingly or deliberately set out to violate the Constitution, and that he'd always intended to abide by the Public Protector's remedial actions.

He also told us that we should be proud as South Africans, proud of our country's Constitution. Yes, proud.

Yet, I don't feel so proud, Mr President. Funny that. Not anymore.

I'm not proud that once again you have shown us that you treat us with contempt and disrespect. I'm not proud that you are refusing to take accountability and do the honourable thing. I'm not proud that you have survived yet another political scandal, for all it reveals is an abuse of your position, and the manipulation of those around you.

Our president of nine lives. That doesn't make me proud. That makes me sad and despondent and leaves me wondering, "What more, what next?"

How many more times will our president of nine lives survive? And at what cost?

At any other moment in time such a scathing judgment, that you, Sir, failed to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution would have marked a turning point in our history and put a full stop on your presidency.

But, it appears that you do not subscribe to the wisdom of the old guard who firmly believe that, "the only time to do the right thing is now". What a great pity for our nation, because had that been the case, then that is what would have made me proud.

Katy Katopodis is editor-in-chief of Eyewitness News. Follow her on _ Twitter._

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