If THERE ever was doubt that our nation is facing a leadership crisis, events surrounding the charging of Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan has put paid to them.
The crisis has been building up. It is said a crisis is a culmination of issues that have not been properly managed and in this regard, South Africa's leadership is guilty as charged.
The crisis is not confined to our political leadership, but extends to the public service, academia, the ruling party, civil society and the private sector.
The turbulence at our universities, challenges faced by our public broadcaster, poor service delivery to citizens, infighting within the ruling party, and growing economic inequalities all boil down to one thing - lack of leadership.
It started with us giving the least competent among us the biggest responsibilities. The state is currently unraveling and we must admit that something has gone terribly wrong with our choice of leaders. Managing state affairs requires the best brains and the most ethical among us. And we, as a country, are not in short supply of such individuals.
But there is this unhealthy ethic in our country that suggests loyalty matters more than competence, integrity and sound judgement.
People are expected to play dumb and not to question things because of fear of the Big Man. I look at the number of court cases that the government loses and I ask myself: Who decides to pursue these matters in court?
Are people driven by blind loyalty or sound judgement? Which takes me to the Gordhan matter.
The timing of the charges against Minister Gordhan - just as he had come back from an international investor roadshow in an effort to stave off a sovereign rating - was not only unfortunate, but highly irresponsible, especially when one looks at the nature of the charges he is facing.
It takes the most inconsiderate and illogical public servants to cost the country nearly R50 billion (that's how much the economy lost in the immediate aftermath of the charges being laid) in pursuit of R1, 1 million which, on the face of it, was duly paid.
The same happened when Nhlanhla Nene was fired as finance minister in December 2015. The economy reportedly lost R500bn but there are some who say the actual loss was a lot more than that.
Ordinary citizens, you and me, whose pensions are invested in bonds and equities, are the ones who lost. No apology was offered and no one was held accountable for that disaster.
Why, pray tell me, must we as citizens be expected to put up with that? It takes the most insensitive leader to cost ordinary citizens such a lot of money and go on as though nothing has happened.
I subscribe to the dictum that no one is above the law, a point Minister Gordhan himself has been at pains to emphasize. However, one cannot but observe a number of inconsistencies. The charge itself is puzzling and not deserving of the kind of trauma the nation is being put through. At face value, this is an administrative issue about a pension payout. Ivan Pillay, a former employee of Sars, requested early retirement so as to cash out his pension. Oupa Magashula, as the then accounting officer, recommended the request be granted.
Minister Gordhan, as the executive authority, approved it. In the process, Sars allegedly incurred a loss of R1.1m because of penalties it paid due to the early retirement - a bill that was supposed to be for Pillay.
Here lies the inconsistency. The state and its agencies lose money daily because of these administrative oversights. In government, they call this irregular, wasteful or fruitless expenditure.
No political principal has ever been criminally charged for approving what their accounting officers have recommended or approved.
Maybe the Hawks and the NPA have now decided to train their eyes in this direction - in which case, we should expect the prosecution of many more accounting officers and their ministers.
I personally have no basis to doubt Minister Gordhan's integrity and pledge my support for him. He remains innocent until proven otherwise.
Let me conclude by saying that I am encouraged that the Gordhan matter has awakened the leaders within us from slumber.
Many, including within the ruling party, have come out to draw the line. They are speaking out against the wrongs. My hope is not in the leaders out there but in the leaders within ourselves.
When those leaders within us have had enough, they will rise to chart a new path.
Pastor Ray McCauley is the president of Rhema Family Churches and co-chairman of the National Religious Leaders Council