The political crisis South Africa faces today can best be understood in the context of the Biblical Festival of Passover, which is celebrated at this time of year by Jewish communities around the world. One of the most astonishing dimensions of the account in the Book of Exodus of the slavery of the Jewish people and their redemption at the hands of G-d, was the full hardy obstinacy and the blind pursuit of power of Pharaoh. The cries for freedom, led by Moses and the oppressed people, were growing louder and louder; the fearsome plagues were striking the people and property of Egypt with increasing ferocity and devastation, and yet Pharaoh was unyielding. He refused to let the people go. To be sure, there were moments when he wavered, moments when he said to Moses and Aaron that the people can go, but almost immediately returned to his position of refusal. In the end after the tenth plague struck and his country was destroyed, Pharaoh finally relented but it was too late to save himself or his people.
This Passover account is crucial to understanding what is happening in South Africa today. President Jacob Zuma, the Gupta family and others have enshackled the South African people with the oppression of corruption, and indeed outright thievery. Their constant attempts to take over the treasury and other ministries and to divert government resources from the South African people, who need it so desperately, to themselves is another form of slavery. It enslaves the people and the resources of this great country to the power and enrichment of a select few. Like in the Bible, the cries for freedom are growing each day. More and more courageous voices speak out, voices from within the senior leadership of the ANC, from business, from the judiciary, from the media and from religious leaders and from civil society. So many patriotic and proud South Africans have called on our own Pharaoh to let his people go, to free us from the oppression of corruption and the wholesale theft of State resources.
The Pharaoh of the Bible teaches us that there are no limits to the obstinacy and short sightedness of a leader bent on maintaining power. The lesson of the Passover experience is that President Zuma can save himself and this country so much pain and devastation by stepping aside and letting true freedom reign. But the other lesson of Passover is that in the end freedom will triumph. That is how G-d created the world. Pharaoh thought he could hold on forever – but he could not. Pharaoh thought he could resist the pressure – but in the end he could not. There is so much pressure on President Zuma at the moment. If the President will not act, the ANC has a responsibility to save our country from the slavery to corruption. Indeed we all have that responsibility. And our cries and actions for freedom in our land grow stronger. Let us go forward with a confidence that Passover teaches us that in the end freedom will triumph as we have learnt from our own history.
The enslavement of corruption is not only at the level of national government, but indeed throughout the country. We must throw off these shackles in order to truly free our people. This is a time when all of us need to become leaders in the spirit of Nelson Mandela who said, “Real leaders must be ready to sacrifice all for the freedom of their people”. We must all come together now to fight for our freedom from corruption, to fight for a society of integrity, honesty, decency and service.