opinionBy Dr. James Makamba
Johannesburg — PALLO Zweledinga Jordan's fall from grace is a tragedy of immense proportions.
Here is a man who dedicated his whole adult life to the struggle against Apartheid. Undeniably he did so with great distinction. He was rightly considered a towering intellectual in the ANC and tripartite.
In exile he was a leading theoretician in the ANC who headed the partys information and publicity machinery. As the ANC moved towards talks with the Apartheid regime he was part of delegations that met with white business and political leaders. Jordan was no ordinary party political official.
Very few will remember him for holding various cabinet portfolios in the administrations of President Nelson Mandela and President Thabo Mbeki. For the record he was Minister of Telecommunications and Broadcasting, Environmental affairs and Tourism, Arts and Culture as well as Technology.
He was a constant presence in the ANCs powerful National Executive Committee (NEC) from which he resigned last week. Jordan will be remembered for contribution he made to public discourse both in parliament and wider society.
Together with another ANC steward Ben Turok, he was regarded as "the leading intellectual" in the ANC and broader alliance movement. It was therefore with great shock that the nation learnt that Jordan did not have a doctorate or any University degree for that matter.
What disappointed many young Africans was the pointlessness of it all.
There was absolutely no need for Jordan to falsely claim the title of "Doctor" and compile what was a fraudulent curriculum vitae.
As many commentators have pointed out Jordan's intellect and deep knowledge of politics and history were universally acknowledged. He was a great asset to the ANC, parliament and the country. The lack of a formal qualification would not have dismissed his stature.
Which begs the question, why such an intelligent man did such a foolish thing? The answer lies in our colonial past. Blacks or natives were told to acquire formal education to stand any chance of being accepted as equals by white colonisers.
That holy grail of a diploma or degree was sought by Africans who wanted to be validated by their colonial masters. Jordan who is now 76 years old and the generations that preceded him grew up in that environment.
He was fortunate that both his parents were prominent academics and political activists. His father Dr Archbald Jordan was a novelist, linguist and academic while his mother Dr Priscilla Jordan was a distinguished researcher and lecturer.
Blessed with a great mind Jordan seemed destined to achieve prominence in both academia and politics.
It is a mystery only he can explain why he felt it was so important he did not go on to acquire formal qualifications.The tragic irony is that a man like Pallo Jordan who dedicated his life to the freedom of his people fell victim to a value system engraved in his people by their oppressors.
The title "Dr" gave him the gravitas and stature that he thought his sheer brilliance alone could not. Therein lies the tragedy.
This however should not be allowed to define what Pallo Jordan was all about. This foolish mistake should not allow people to lose perspective.
Jordan is one of the heroes of the epic struggle against Apartheid.
His incisive mind enriched public discourse on how South Africans should be governed and what path it should take. His contributions in parliament and the structures of the ANC were most valued. He was no ordinary cabinet member.
In many ways it was not wise to confine his talents to the demands of a single cabinet portfolio. In the party he was no apparatchick. He was a man of ideas whose contribution to the debates that raged within the party cannot be erased from the record.
It is interesting that the general reaction to Jordans fall from grace is one of profound sadness and not condemnation.
By resigning from parliament and the ANC has fallen on his sword. He has accepted responsibility for his folly.
The ANC still has to decide whether to accept his resignation from the party. President Jacob Zuma is of the view that it is not necessary for him to do so.
Whatever happens many hope that Jordan's considerable gifts will not be lost to the nation.