For an election in which cleaning up government is the central issue for the 48 parties contesting the May 8 national polls, there's a lot of political mud being thrown.
All the political parties claim to be best suited to wipe away the country's ripe reputation for cronyism, private use of public resources, bribery, and state capture. Yet they continue needling each other over ethical lapses rather than focusing on promoting the policies they'd pursue if elected.
Voters are lamenting: Who is going to restore trust in government? Who is going to clean up government as political leaders point fingers at each other with no tangible ethics plans.
Lest we forget that in 1994 President Nelson Mandela decried corruption, conspicuous consumption, greed, self-enrichment, dishonesty, bribery, sexual abuse of women and children, drug trafficking and disrespect for others.
Today we would add state capture and into the mix. Millions of people, more so than I can ever remember, are going to the polls with the issue of corruption on their minds, thanks to the slew of commissions dealing with a variety of ethical lapses.
The many commissions underway have brought into sharp focus the unquestionable absence of standards and values that we believed were the hallmark of the first few years of our democracy.
Current events in our country show that people are starting to wake up from the slumber of corruption. They are demanding better governance.
We need only to look at the headlines of recent scandals and indignities that have comprised the integrity of our elected officials to recognise the need for better governance and oversight.
Voters are saying we have had almost three decades of electing our leaders and every time we hold elections, a few of them stand out as promising individuals, but almost all of those we elect are just experts in lip service. Nothing in our government changes, the politicians win but the people never do.
As a result, the 6th administration is going to be taking over with a cloud of previous scandals looming overhead. There is a dramatic and immediate need to return to fundamental ethics.
Of course, for some, ethics can seem obscure, a philosophy debated by academics with little practical significance, tucked away between codes of conduct and social responsibility, far from decision-makers concerned with political power.
Yet at the beginning of our hard earned democracy there was a sense of decency, a dose of discretion, an unobstructed view of right and wrong, an instinct
about acceptable boundaries.
But almost without notice, it all has been eroded. Those who have warned of the deterioration, were heckled and called fanatics and zealots. But just because the messenger is mad, it doesn't follow that the message is crazy.
Let's face it - no one is without flaws. Perfection only comes after death. But leadership requires sacrifice, the willingness to subordinate one's own desires and needs for the good of the people one serves.
It is a pity that the stress of living with capricious leaders who lack integrity continues to destroy South Africa’s reputation and the civic culture. It also seems to be doing an effective job ravaging the national government and citizens' trust. We can continue to lower our expectations and standards, or declare war on corruption. Certainly, this country is better than the cesspools in which it current swims.
That is why the Moral Regeneration Movement developed the Charter of Election Ethics to help voters to elect candidates who are ethical, principled and competent.
Through the charter, we are asking voters to think beyond campaign promises and to focus on the bigger picture.
Whilst the first general election somewhat envisaged a utopian society, 25 years of democracy have unearthed the diversity of interests among voters. South African voters are savvier. Voting patterns no longer follow rigid ethnical or racial lines.
Twenty-five years into our democracy the political landscape has both changed and remained the same. What has changed?
In contrast, certain realities have remained the same or have only changed at a snail’s pace.
Most of these factors have a huge influence on the perceptions and decisions of voters.
So, how are we going to arrest the ethical decline of the government while restoring citizens' overall trust in elected leaders? Through training to encourage ethical behaviour.
Leadership development should include an ethical construct that promotes the importance of becoming a purpose-driven leader.
At its core, successful, ethical leadership is based on elemental ingredients of deep honesty, courage, moral vision, compassion and care, fairness and deep selflessness.
One cannot overemphasise the importance of identifying ethical leaders - well trained, experienced and educated in matters of good governance. Popularity cannot be the main criterion for electing a candidate.
George Orwell hit the nail on the head when he said: “A people that elect corrupt politicians, imposters, thieves and traitors are not victims but accomplices.”
Smangaliso Mkhatshwa is chairman of the Moral Regeneration Movement which can be accessed at: www.mrm.org.za
The Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM) has intensified the ICareWeCare campaign in several areas of the Gauteng province over the past months.
Launched in 2016, the campaign is run in partnership with the Gauteng Department of Infrastructure Development (GDID) with to encourage communities to protect and take ownership of public property located in their areas. “The campaign seeks to educate communities about the negative effects of destroying public property, such as schools, hospitals, clinics, recreation facilities, libraries, and community centres,” said MRM’s ICareWeCare campaign coordinator, Mr Michael Mokobe.
During the months of November and December 2018, campaign activities were undertaken at ward level in Tshwane, Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Sedibeng and the Westrand.
Mokobe said the campaign activities included community dialogues, social media marketing, activations and the signing of pledge books. Pledge books are signed by members of the community, pledging their support to the campaign. The campaign aims to secure a million pledges by the end of March 2019. A total of 200 pledge books are circulating in different communities under the supervision MRM’s regional coordinators and community facilitators. They will be collected, verified, recorded and tallied at the end of March 2019.
Dialogues were held in Ekurhuleni townships of Etwatwa, Vosloorus, Tsakane. In the Tshwane Metro, Mabopane, Memelodi and Hammanskraal also held dialogues, while in the Johannesburg Metro, dialogues where held in Eldorado Park, Poortjie and Soweto. On the Westrand, the dialogues were held in Merafong, Mogale City and Rand West City. These, according to Mokobe, were follow ups on dialogues held in 2017. The revisiting was aimed at to reinforcing the message, he added.
More than 5 000 people, some of them representing community-based organisations, had attended the dialogues.
The dialogues help in identifying and addressing the underlying causes of the destruction and vandalism of public property through the facilitation of community conversations, said Mokobe. “The dialogues promote local problem-solving and advance social cohesion,” he added. Other aims of the ICareWecare community dialogues include:
Foster and facilitate dialogue within communities around the concept of “people’s property”;
Ensure active engagement with communities on destruction and vandalism of public property and finding sustainable solutions to societal problems;
Create linkages between various community stakeholders and between communities and the relevant policy makers;
Provide a safe space for communities to engage without fear and to tackle difficult issues head on;
Help build the capacity that enables communities to take ownership of this dialogue process.
Mokobe said communities were raising various issues during the dialogues and complaining about apathy on the part of the authorities to address them. “There is anger and frustration due to a lack of constant responsiveness to service delivery challenges,” said Mokobe, summarizing the views expressed by communities in the various engagements. Persisting service delivery issues, housing (RDP Houses), water and sanitation, electricity, corruption, roads, unemployment, health facilities, land and crime were among the issues being raised.
Two ICareWeCare campaign activations were undertaken in Delyn Mall, Mamelodi and at the State Theatre, in Pretoria, to reach communities in city areas.
On the other hand, MRM has been active in various townships, helping communities deal with issues of crime and vandalism.
Following a break–in at the newly built state of the art Menzi Primary School, in Tsakane, the MRM convened a massive community meeting in partnership with the local ward councillor and the school’s governing body. The meeting, which was addressed by Gauteng education MEC, Mr Panyaza Lisufi, was attended by more than 900 community members. Following this intervention, said Mokobe, police arrested four suspects as a result of community members providing information to the cops. “This is part of the ICareWeCare campaign - to protect public property from criminals and vandals,” said a cheerful Mokobe.
The campaign’s social media campaign had enlisted hundreds of Facebook likes, while the its Twitter page had registered some 800 impressions.
Several dialogues are being held during this month in institutions of higher learning. It should be remembered that during violence that ensued in the wake of the #FeesMustFall protests in 2016/7 property valued at some R800-million was destroyed.
The dialogues in several residential areas of the province are continuing.
The Moral Regeneration Movement (MRM) has held a strategic planning workshop on 7-8 February 2019 at its headquarters in Johannesburg to take stock of its functions of the previous years and draw plans for the future.
The workshop was attended by more than 70 people representing several fraternal organisations such as non-governmental organisations, the religious sector, traditional leadership and government departments.
Chairperson of the MRM board, Father Smangaliso Mkhatshwa, told the workshop that the country was gripped with some of the most severe moral challenges, including the Life Esidemini tragedy, the revelations at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture.