I remember being struck by Françoise Vergès’s comment that small insular islands such as
Mauritius suffer from a certain ‘trauma of insignificance’. It is something I understand better today after this surreal experience. A President with no powers has held the country in the palm of her hand for ten days, played with it at her will in putsch style, when we have a standing PM with full powers. How easily – in our insignificance? – we have run after the glitz of L’Oréal conversing with Harvard and the almighty aura of a scientific mind. And how easily we/the Constitution/the PM have allowed a President with no powers to run circles around the country.
It is still with a stunning dose of disbelief that we digest all that has been since the first revelations of a daily on the spending of our outgoing President. Justice will take its course and let us not extrapolate too eagerly. Nonetheless, the world of post-truths and half-truths raises more questions and intrigue that it answers. The contradictions in the outgoing President’s own discourse and posture, her own half-truths have done her and the Presidency consistent disservice from the beginning. Let alone a dose of arrogance commensurate only with the scale of the disaster that has been generated, or commensurate with that of continental leaders who have previously refused to leave. The earliest contradiction is that she challenged the paper over the authenticity of the bank documents published over the PEI credit card spending, and now she is suing Barclays for breach of confidentiality for the modest sum of Rs500, 000, 000. How do we reconcile her desired status as ‘professional’ and great ‘scientist’ with the repeated inadvertence with which she used the credit card of an NGO for the purchase of luxury items for personal consumption? The rest is irrelevant, the go ahead from PEI, the reimbursement, the curious timing of such. How can a mind great enough and personality worldly enough to be the kind of Head of State who sees her role as one international PR, hide behind the passé regressive discourse of being ‘a mother, sister, wife, daughter’ in 2017? How can someone so voluble on TED Talks and in the Ivy League universities refuse dialogue with the press, choosing instead to hide behind a stale MBC monologue? Or worse hide behind porte-paroles, the choice of whom is emblematic as is her choice of proposed chair of the Commission of Enquiry?
Realpolitik and sisterhood
How can someone whom we welcomed with open arms as an apolitical breath of air so naturally flash a good dose of realpolitik, of the kind we accuse our traditional politicians of? AGF could have invited no socio-culturals at all at her
book launch, but she chose to invite one in particular to come to her defence, and not, say 5, to represent a fair cross-section. Our President says she cares for the progress of women but she has treated Mauritian women as imbeciles in her plea for them to stand up in her defence – of what exactly? I took it as both a personal and a collective affront when the President called to the sisterhood. The sisterhood is a collective intelligence that rises to redress injustices and propel us to more optimal ways of doing human. It rose in the last century to, for example, give us the right to vote. It rose in India after the Delhi bus rape. The sisterhood is not at the beck and call of anyone, not even heads of states who have appropriated more power than given to them by the constitution. And the sisterhood certainly will not rise to cover up for a shopping spree gone wrong.
In keeping up with the consistency in her contradictions, after putting the country through the uncomfortable show of receiving the Indian President on the 12 of March as if it was all business as usual, then insisting that the truth was that she was not resigning, word falls yesterday, not through her own voice but through that of another emblematic figure that she has resigned for ‘l’intérêt supérieur du pays’ with effect on the 23rd of March. Finally, she called for a Commission of Enquiry with herself as one of the chief subjects of enquiry, and one which will not see the day since she has called for something illegal. It is difficult, indeed, to fathom out who AGF is and what she is about. But for sure, we want to know a lot of things, and not just half-truths but the whole truth about all culprits, in Government, at the State House, in Angola.
Meanwhile, to be in between post-truths and half-truths is to be in between a rock and a hard place. Are we, the people of Mauritius, doomed by an imperfect constitution to continue to pay a sum of Rs 367, 000 a month to a President who has dragged the name of the country down in the mud internationally? It is a long time since we stopped believing in the rights of monarchs. Last time someone regal said ‘let them eat cake’, they had to bite a lot more than they could chew.
The glitz generated by the advocates of post-truths and half-truths is not enough a qualification for leadership. Unless we insist of our leaders that they have a sound dose of ethics, an authenticity to serve deep human causes, the humility to not build themselves up as demi-gods, we will be trumped all over again.
I ask this because another related lurking trouble is that over and above the revelations that might be made and that could shake us as a nation even more than the past two weeks, over and above the image of the country internationally and the economic repercussions, over and above the unprecedented constitutional crisis, over and above our angry disenchantment with the political class, there is also a Red Riding wolf dressed as lamb, a sort of Dr in lamar mok labou, poised to jump.
P.S: All that glitters is not gold, some of it is dynamite.