Praise at the right moment
In the words of American novelist Pearl S Buck, praise out of season or tactlessly bestowed can freeze the heart as much as blame.
This quote is brought to mind by President Jacob Zuma's lecture delivered in the Eastern Cape last Friday honouring former President Thabo Mbeki.
In a glowing tribute to his predecessor, Zuma said Mbeki played a central role in selling the ANC to the rest of the world during apartheid.
"The better Africa and better world that we now speak of is [a result of] cumulative input on the foundation laid by President Thabo Mbeki," Zuma said.
Pity that Mbeki did not attend the lecture as he was reportedly busy with the Sudan issue.
His presence would have added special poignancy to Zuma's eulogy of him, given the chill generated by Mbeki's criticism of the ANC leadership recently.
Delivering the Oliver Tambo memorial lecture last month, Mbeki said the current ANC leadership was losing its ability to provide direction to South Africa
He challenged ANC leaders to follow Tambo's example of being revolutionaries. Tambo, he said, fought for our liberation without expecting anything in return.
While Zuma hailed Mbeki as a committed ANC leader, friend and brother, relations between the two cooled after their bitter duel for the party's presidency in Polokwane in 2007.
It is this backdrop that brings to mind Buck's reference to the folly of bestowing praise "out of season".
The current chill between Mbeki and ANC leadership makes the commendation sound kind of hollow.
These concerns would, of course, have been nullified by Mbeki's presence at the lecture and a public show of unity.
This, however, should not detract from Zuma's overture in delivering a tribute on a long-time comrade without a hint of the bitterness that has punctuated their relations.
This perhaps calls for a season of serious soul-searching among the ANC leaders to reach out to their fractious "self" and place the party beyond self-interest.