It is now almost a quarter of a century since the dawn of democracy in SA.
This milestone necessitates a serious relook at the evolution of the moral character of our politics.
Posterity will trace our current political life using presidents as markers of our time. Historians will refer to the age of Nelson Mandela, the era of Thabo Mbeki, the period under Jacob Zuma and so on.
We shall see that the high-mindedness of a generation of leaders is captured in history as the character of an epoch. We must therefore expect Donald Trump's idiocy in the US to go down in history as the lowest point in the evolution of its political psychology.
In South Africa, the first five years of democracy were a time of high moral ground. The dignity of Mandela was interpreted by the rest of the world as a manifestation of a kind of exceptionalism on the part of black South Africans. Global observers were not wrong in drawing such parallels, for black people themselves walked with inflated chests in their proud association with their moral giant.
Even when Mandela divorced, the whole thing was handled with a dignity so untypical of the dirty business of divorce. Thus, South Africans continued proudly to refer to Mandela as their "tata", and Winnie as their "mama".
Mbeki's era was less a time of moral gravitas than a period of intellectual heft. Suddenly, a short black man in the presidency demonstrated to the whole world that people with a dark skin can think. Still, this intellectualism was weaved with a deliberate moral effort that seemed to result from decades of deliberate monkish moulding.
The day he took over Mandela's "ugly" shoes at the Union Buildings, Mbeki's smouldering pipe disappeared from the public eye. Such consciousness was reminiscent of the morality of yore.
And then the gates of hell were thrown ajar the day Zuma clutched his "machine gun" in his armpit and walked into the Union Buildings.
As he readied himself for our country's highest office, Zuma's preparations included recreational sex with an HIV-positive woman - knowingly.
In this "ennobled" presidential game, a shower gained the kind of curative powers usually reserved for medical science.