The week of the 21-25 October 2013 was known in South Africa as “National Good Governance Week” and the festivities that focused on this issue began with a two day conference that was held at the CSIR International Convention Centre in Pretoria on the 21st and 22nd. The conference was hosted by the Public Protector, Advocate Thuli Madonsela and other bodies classified as “Integrity Sector Bodies.” The conference was held under the theme: “Good Governance and Poverty Eradication: Two sides of the same coin.”
Part of the conference was an “Inter-Faith Good Governance Prayer” which was held at Freedom Park, Pretoria on the October 24. The prayer was scheduled to take place from 10am until 1pm and I hope real prayer took place during this time. We certainly do need divine intervention in this country and the intervention of the Public Protector.
I sometimes think that Advocate Madonsela is what stands between us and total anarchy. Bad governance and scandal-riddled politicians is something we have become accustomed to. Some people have resigned themselves to the idea that most politicians are corrupt but are hoping for a bit of moderation. They are appalled about how some politicians have become daylight scavengers with little moral restraint.
We are waiting for the Public Protector’s report on the upgrade on our President’s private homestead with keen interest. We may not be privy to the machinations of security upgrades in a President’s home but are curious to know what exactly a person buys with R200 million. Can you imagine how much poverty can be eradicated with that amount of money?
The Bible says money answers all things. To some it answers the question of putting bread on the table and to others the question of a private jet or some egocentric item. In South Africa the governors and the governed are subject to different rules. If you are a governor and are accused of criminality you just have to plead “presumption of innocence” and thereafter hire the best lawyers to help you get an acquittal on some technicality.
Our governors relegate things like ethics and values to religion while they operate under the cover of legal technicalities and an attitude of “catch-me-if-you-can.” What is disconcerting about our situation is the fact that the reported corruption is what has been uncovered, which leaves us wondering how deep the problem is. It was recently reported that our National Parliament hired glasses for R200 each which makes you wonder how much it would have cost to buy them.
Perhaps through our tender system these glasses would have cost R2 000 each. This is what is called bad governance and the question is: what are we going to do about it? To be fair it is not only politicians who are misgoverning this country but civil servants as well. In fact the term “civil servant” is a misnomer. Some civil servants are actually uncivil and lack a servant attitude.
In fact when we encounter a real “civil servant” we get so amazed we write letters to the paper to celebrate this rare find. In other words we reward people for doing what they are actually paid to do; like we pay a performance bonus to someone who has performed according to his job specification. We have lowered our standards and have become a nation of mediocrity.
How do we observe a week of good governance in a country that has been badly governed for the whole year? Do we develop amnesia and forget about the other 51 weeks? Well in South Africa many people do suffer from amnesia especially around election time. We vote people into power and then criticise them for much of their time in office only to vote for them in again. We are like a spouse that has become addicted to abuse.
Education, the eradication of poverty and of a social system that depends on the largesse of politicians is what will bring us good governance. If the totality of our livelihood depends on a few elite individuals then they will do with this country as they please.