11 May 2009
Harlan CA Cloete
On Saturday, May 9, my daughter and I were glued to the television set as we joined millions of South Africans to witness the inauguration of the 4th South African president. It also provided an instant opportunity for father and daughter to reflect on the road South Africans have travelled to realise their collective dreams. It made me feel immensely proud that the father of our nation, Nelson Mandela also graced the event with his presence.
Jacob Zuma certainly had a rough 8 years. The media, for their part have played a decisive role in painting a picture of an illiterate man that is corrupt to the core, a rapist, a womaniser and generally unfit for the highest office. The elections result of April 22 however delivered Jacob Zuma as the popular choice to lead South Africa. Weathering difficult political storms as well as overcoming some personal battles along the way, the former herd boy ascended the steps of the union building to take the oath of president of the republic of South Africa.
More importantly I wanted to hear what the president was saying to ordinary South Africans and the role we should play in shaping the country of our dreams. Alas, the moment came, and he said it.
“For as long as there are South Africans who die from preventable disease, workers who struggle to feed their families, communities who are without clean water, decent shelter or proper sanitation, For as long as there are rural dwellers unable to make a decent living from the land on which they live, woman who are subjected to discrimination, exploitation or abuse For as long as there are children who do not have the means nor the opportunity to receive a decent education. For as long as there are people who are unable to find work, we shall not rest and we dare not falter “
Jacob Zuma took us back to Mandela, to the basic premise that defines us as a nation. The society Mbeki termed as the “creation of a caring society.”
He then went further,
”Together, we must build a society that prizes excellence and rewards effort, which shuns laziness and incompetence”
But of course we know that words are not enough. The biggest challenge I believe, is to get the public servants to embrace the bold vision of the president .For we know that despite the lofty Batho Pele principles, many public servants have not internalised the concept of servant leadership . In a way we have also allowed mediocrity and arrogance to contaminate our public discourse.
So whether working in government or outside, by living selflessly in service of others, we give effect to the South African dream. There are far too many for whom the long, miserable nightmare have not yet ended.
A plethora of complexities and contradictions face the new administration and ultimately the president will be judged not by what he says, but what he does.
The Zuma presidency will succeed, but then a radical paradigm shift from the broader public service is needed. More specifically at the coalface of delivery, local government, where for far too long we have experienced a too healthy tolerance for incompetence.