Mr President posted on behalf of Harlan Cloete 5

Mr President
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.

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5 thoughts on “Mr President posted on behalf of Harlan Cloete

  • Des Squire

    The Batho Pele Principles
    The principles of Batho Pele are designed to give all service providers a guide on how to improve customer relations and service.
    By following these principles, we aim to make our customers happy and derive satisfaction from knowing that we have worked to the best of our ability. At the same time, we promote our Department as a quality organisation.
    Batho Pele was founded on 8 principles, but 2 more principles have been added for this Awards programme.
    Consulting with our customers means asking them what their needs are and how we can meet those needs. It’s about listening to what our customers say and using the information to improve our service. It’s also important to report back to our customers so they know what to expect, and we should report back to our staff so they know what is expected of them and can plan their work.
    Service Standards
    Standards are about how well we do our work each day.
    Once we know what our customers need, we must set standards to make sure we perform at our best. Standards must be realistic, and be attainable within our resources. We should not promise what we cannot deliver. There should be some way to measure standards and when they are not met, we should put things right as quickly as possible.
    How easy is it for customers to use our services? Is there access for the disabled? How far do people have to come to get our service? Providing customers with information in their own language leads to better access. We should be especially aware of the previously disadvantaged and people with special needs.
    This means being friendly, polite, helpful and treating everyone with dignity and respect, no matter who they are.
    We should have a Code of Conduct which explains the rules on courtesy. All staff should be trained to follow these rules and understand what they mean. By following a Code of Conduct the staff can provide a warm and friendly service to everyone.
    Information is about telling all our customers about the services our department provides. We should make sure that information is provided in many different ways, through newspapers, posters, leaflets, radio and TV. Information should be provided in a language that our customers can understand and at a level that is easily understood.
    Openness and Transparency
    We should be open and honest about how we work. We should tell our customers what our resources are, how we spend our money, and how well we did our work. We should be honest about good and bad things and how we plan to improve our services in the future. Once a year, in an annual report, we should tell our customers what went right and what went wrong. By inviting our customers to Open Days, we can show them how we work.
    This means dealing with complaints. We should make it easy for our customers to tell us they are not happy with our service and tell them how and where to complain. We should keep a register in which we list all the complaints and how we dealt with them. We should apologize immediately, and do what we can to put things right. Complaints from our customers can show us how we can improve our service.
    Giving Best Value
    Giving value for money is about giving our customers the best service in the most efficient way. We should not waste the resources we are given and should eliminate any fraud and corruption. We can save money by doing things right the first time and also by forming partnerships with other service providers. Working together as a team also helps to make sure we give the best possible service and value for money.
    Innovation and Reward
    Innovation can be ways of providing a better service, cutting costs, improving conditions and making changes that benefit everyone. Staff should be encouraged to share new ideas and employees who work well should be praised and rewarded. It is important for managers to recognize staff who implement new, creative ideas and those who work well and follow the principles of Batho Pele.
    Customer Impact
    Customer impact is strongest when the principles of Batho Pele have been followed. This shows in the changes you have made by following ALL the Batho Pele principles and not just some of them. It’s also about making sure that not only you know about Batho Pele, but that your customers know the principles as well. Customers should know about their rights under all the principles.

  • sylvia hammond Post author

    Hi Des, you ask what is the direction – what is the common goal. My understanding is that our goal is set out in the Bill of Rights in our Constitution – we need to achieve a transformation of society – to deliver housing, health and education provision, and the delivery of basic social services. We need to achieve a transformation from the current level of inequality and to reduce poverty.
    I believe that the question Harlan is raising is to what extent are the public servants on board with the ethic of “service” to the community – particularly local government. We have the code of Batho Pele – but public servants have not internalised these values.

  • Des Squire

    What a beautiful article and some very heart wrenching comments. We should really study the content and the sentiments expressed in order to derive the best understanding. The president made some very emphatic statements and time will give a good indication of his sincerity and ability to deliver. As president of the ANC, (they already had 14 years to make inroads) I wonder if after another 14 years progress will be as slow as the previous.?
    President Zuma went on tot say ”Together, we must build a society that prizes excellence and rewards effort, which shuns laziness and incompetence”. To achieve this dream he has a need to speak to cetain of his followers and leaders and enlighten them as to the meaning of togetherness and how they should avoid causing conflict , dissention and rifts. Yes, together we can make a diffeerence but togetherness involves working towards a common goal and pulling in the same direction. What exactly is that direction? Are all role players aware of the goals and objectives and have they bought in?