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Without ethics in government, there can be no trust and the social contract is doomed to fail

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Lebogang Maile MPL is the Gauteng Member of the Executive Council for Human Settlements, Urban Planning, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He is also a Provincial Executive Committee member of the ANC in Gauteng. He writes in his personal capacity.

In order to restore and rebuild public confidence in government and state institutions at large, we need a renewed focus on ethical, clean, accountable, transparent governance at all layers and levers of the state.

One of the fundamental principles of successful nation-building is the trust relationship between those who are governed and those who govern. Without this trust, the social contract which undergirds all successful societies falls apart and the confidence of the people in government, in the state, its systems and processes begins to wane, creating a democratic deficit.

It is because of the importance of building and sustaining this trust between the public and those within government and state institutions at large, that the issues of ethics and integrity management are of critical significance to the life, the health and the wellbeing of the Gauteng City Region.

We have to entrench and instil a culture of ethical conduct and governance within the Gauteng City Region and its governance and public service structures, especially in these times where the confidence of the public in us is to a large extent diminishing because of the many scandals and exposés that have been put in the public domain.

Ethics are a critical element of upholding our social contract as a people, with trust between the public and those in key state positions being a crucial element within that social contract. Without ethics, there can be no trust and the social contract is doomed to fail.

In order to restore and rebuild public confidence in government and state institutions at large, we need a renewed focus on ethical, clean, accountable, transparent governance at all layers and levers of the state, something which the provincial government in Gauteng is very serious about. This can be seen in our commitment to improving audit outcomes and proactively addressing the Auditor General’s findings and implementing recommendations, the rollout of the open tender system, and the requirement that all senior managers within government must as a compulsory requirement complete the National School of Government’s online ethics course.

The steps we have taken and continue to take as a provincial government to deal decisively with corruption and graft, working in tandem with the SIU, the SAPS and other state and law enforcement entities, are an indication of our desire to restore public confidence through ethical governance and leadership.

Our quest for ethical governance and leadership within our city region is informed by the following considerations:

  • Governing and making decisions to promote public (and not private) interests;
  • Decisively deal with and address all conflicts of interests;
  • Uphold principles of merit in all that we do, while unapologetically advancing the transformation agenda (the two are not mutually exclusive as some among us would like to argue);
  • Being accountable, open and transparent;
  • Uphold all the ethical guidelines as set out by the Public Service Commission; and
  • Uphold the highest standards of revolutionary morality, which goes way beyond looking at legal considerations.

In talking about revolutionary morality, let us follow the example of Vietnamese revolutionary leader and former president, Ho Chi Minh, who throughout his leadership of Vietnam always focused on educating and training government leaders and officials in revolutionary morality. For Ho Chi Minh, this was an existential imperative.

Special importance was placed on the cultivation of a revolutionary moral foundation and the responsibility of being an example to society. Leaders and public officials were expected to be paragons of morality and lifestyle.

This type of expectation goes beyond mere compliance to the form and the letter of the law and places a higher burden on leaders and public servants to lead the way and be exemplary to society. Corruption, wastefulness, lethargy, laxness and laziness in service to the public was not to be tolerated and it was a revolutionary duty to deal with all of these in a decisive and unequivocal manner.

Former president Nelson Mandela once spoke of us needing an “RDP of the soul” as a people and this is one of the things that we must of necessity raise when we look at building an ethical culture and ethos within all spheres of government.

There are a whole lot of measures and steps we are taking to address ethical issues in governance within the province and deal with this undesirable phenomenon, which was identified by former president Thabo Mbeki in a Nelson Mandela Memorial Lecture in 2006;

“Thus, every day, and during every hour of our time beyond sleep, the demons embedded in our society, that stalk us at every minute, seem always to beckon each one of us towards a realisable dream and nightmare. With every passing second, they advise, with rhythmic and hypnotic regularity — get rich! get rich! get rich!

“And thus, has it come about that many of us accept that our common natural instinct to escape from poverty is but the other side of the same coin on whose reverse side are written the words — at all costs, get rich!”

We must deal decisively and conclusively with these “demons” as identified by former president Thabo Mbeki and we want to assure you of our continued commitment to ethical, clean, accountable, transparent governance within Gauteng City Region. DM

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All Comments 4

  • “We want to assure you” – thx we don’t trust or believe you and especially so since you don’t have any history of doing any of what you purport.

  • This is rich Mr Maile!
    He is the king of lack of accountability and his performance in front of the Human Rights Commission a few years ago should be enough to disqualify him from politics forever!
    Lets not forget the Alex Mafia of which Mr Maile is a paid up member.

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