UE aims to pressure business, government on ethical living — Versveld

Unashamedly Ethical National Coordinator Marcel Versveld and his wife Annette.
Unashamedly Ethical National Coordinator Marcel Versveld and his wife Annette.

[notice]ANDRE VILJOEN spoke to Unashamedly Ethical National Coordinator about the movement’s campaign to promote ethical living in South Africa. [/notice]Some 10 to 12 years ago Pretoria pastor Marcel Versveld became aware of a need to bridge a great divide between the church and business people with a largely unrecognised calling to serve God in the marketplace.

His interest in  marketplace ministry and his passion for community involvement and community transformation led him to embrace a new national movement that was established in 2009 with the aim of promoting ethics, values and clean living. As a part-time volunteer for the movement, Unashamedly Ethical (UE), he organised events in the Pretoria area and by 2011 he told UE that he was prepared to serve the movement in a full-time capacity. He envisaged joining the UE team about five years down the track.

uelogoBut at the beginning of 2012 UE asked Versveld to take its helm as its national coordinator.

“My five-year timeframe came down to a few months,” said Versveld.

He says he is passionate about South Africa and loves travelling the length and breadth of the country, meeting people in cities and dorps, and sharing the vision of UE.

“In the long term our purpose is to get Unashamedly Ethical to be a pressure group in the country that challenges business and ultimately makes even the government take note of what we are trying to accomplish,” he said.

Individuals and organisations who join UE commit to following 10 ethical lifestyle pledges and to becoming accountable to a UE ombudsman whose role is to investigate and resolve complaints that members make against each other.

Corruption Perception Index
An indication of the challenge facing UE in its aspiration to become an effective pressure group for ethical living, can be gained from South Africa’s latest rating on Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index 2012 (CPI). Since 2010, when the SA public sector was ranked as the 54th least corrupt out of 176 countries, it has slipped 15 places to the 69th position.

Recently UE celebrated some breakthrough developments in the Western Cape when the WC provincial cabinet and two major taxi associations elected to adopt the UE ethics pledge, and the Unashamedly Ethical Health Care Professionals Community was launched.

The WC Government is the first government institution in SA to sign the UE pledge. Versveld said UE would be delighted to sign up ANC government institutions but to date no such developments are under discussion.

However a UE team attended the ANC leadership elections at Magaung in December 2012. They gave bibles to signatories and people who attended the election, handed out thousands of UE pamphlets on the street, and pronounced a UE blessing over ANC delegates. He said the UE campaign was greatly appreciated by the delegates.

Short-term goals of UE are to have volunteer regional coordinators in all nine provinces. Currently coordinators are still needed in the Eastern Cape and Northern Cape. Coordinators are needed to help with the establishment and promotion of local business networking communities which are seen as a key to the growth of UE required for it to influence the ethical climate in SA.

In addition to the grassroots local communities, a number of UE ‘industry communities’ have been established. These include communities for the health professionals’ sector in SA, and special UE pledges for government officials, teachers, sports professionals, non profit organisations, and churches.

Million signatures target
UE has set a target of getting a million people to sign its pledge. It had hoped to reach this target by the end of 2013, but with 17 000 signatories to date it will probably have to extend the date, said Versveld acknowledged that it would require a “God-sized leap of faith” to reach its goal. Other targets are to sign up 10 000 companies (3 800 are signed up to date) and to launch 200 communities (there are currently 121 communities).

Some of the challenges facing UE are raising funds to pay for the roll-out of its initiatives, and finding effective ways to keep signatories engaged and accountable, and actively involved in recruiting new members.

“The campaign is only as strong as the members are,” he said, emphasising that if members felt fellow-members were not adhering to the UE pledge they should report them to the ombudsman who would attempt to get everybody back on track. He said that over the past five to six months the ombudsman has investigated five complaints.

He said that UE needed to partner with like-minded groups to help its signatories to stay focused on ethical living. It has signed partnerships with Mentor 24, Crossover Transformation, Character First and various other organisations.

UE is also in partnership with the international Exposed campaign which is a 12 months initiative that is focusing on exposing corruption which is a major cause of poverty around the world. Exposed aims to challenge G20 Countries which convene in Australia next year to take a public stand against corruption.


  1. I consider the aims of UE to be admirable, especially with so many people growing up without any moral training, and the consequent dearth of integrity being manifest so much in government, administration and business. I was very excited about the impact it made when it prompted a business woman to be a “whistle-blower” about corruption and price-fixing, back in 2011, I think.
    However, I have one reservation, in that UE reminds me somewhat of what I’ve read of the Moral Re-Armament Movement, which started out well but became more humanistic (i.e. based on human effort) and therefore legalistic. Focusing on modifying behaviour can be more acceptable in business and government circles than proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which causes offence, so it is easy to be distracted from the Great Commission. There is quite a lot of information on Moral Re-Armament on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oxford_Group

  2. Hugh G Wetmore

    I respect Eleanor’s convictions, and share her desire that Ethics be rooted in the transformed renewed Mind which Jesus wants us to have, by His Gospel grace. On the other hand, Jesus said only a few will choose the narrow road leading to eternal life. We want to be salt in society to preserve us from corruption in this life, and to that end UE is right in using every means to fight and expose Corruption. Even if some people and corporations reform with humanistic or legalistic motives and energies. A corruption-free society is better society than one soaked in corruption. But let’s not confuse that with spiritual new birth that leads to eternal life through Christ. UE does not make such a confusion. Lastly, we who are Christians must note with amazement that some non-Christians and even those of other faiths live better moral lives than some born-again believers who have received the saving grace of Christ. Such is the common grace of God among people in every place.