Public office requires devotion

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

By Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe

Last month, South Africa laid to rest one of our most dedicated public servant, the Minister of Public Service and Administration Ohm Collins Chabane.

Minister Chabane was understood the importance of the oath of public office. He took his vows and affirmation seriously and embodied the values that come with holding public office such as fairness, transparency, ethical conduct and accountability. The late Minister also understood that to be a public servant is a calling which required men and women of character who can make a difference in the lives of the people of South Africa.

He pursued his mission to improve governance with determination and was committed to fight corruption wherever it occurred, and in all its manifestations. His work ethic turned on its head the recent discourse that public servants are incompetent, corrupt and only interested in the perks that come with positions.

The Public Service is filled with individuals like the late Minister Chabane who have also been true to the calling to serve. Those who go the extra mile in delivering excellent services by "putting people first" go about it in a determined and committed way.

The Department for Public Service and Administration recognise them through the National Batho Pele Excellence Awards. They reward excellence in the public service with the ultimate goal of entrenching professionalism. It is unfortunate that our discourse tends to be dominated by the questionable actions of a minority that do not live up to this Batho Pele principle.

The department has identified corruption as one of the factors that prevents South Africa from achieving an effective and efficient public service. To this end, it is working on wide-ranging initiatives that deter public servants from committing corruption. The government is also implementing measures aimed at preventing public servants from doing business with it, and has created the School of Government to improve the public sector’s performance and good governance.

Our efforts against corruption are bearing fruit. A total of 62 public officials were convicted for the 2014/15 financial year and freezing orders to the value of R430 million were obtained.

To ensure greater success in rooting out corruption, we need the public to play its part. We must all be vigilant and report the commission of such crimes to law enforcement agencies and Chapter 9 institutions. In addition, the public should assist the prosecuting authority by providing evidence and acting as witnesses. 

South Africans must also desist from engaging in corrupt activities with public servants. We should remember that it takes two to commit an act of corruption, whether you offer a bribe or act in certain way to unfairly benefit you or your business; it is criminal and punishable by law. 

Incidence of corruption not only damages the country’s reputation, it also damages the trust people have in government institutions. This in turn has a severely detrimental effect on economic growth, the country’s overall development and our efforts to overcome the triple threat of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

The late Minister Chabane had noble plans to root out corrupt practices in the public sector and take our country forward. It is now the time for us to take his vision forward, not become embroiled in self-defeating discourse and ensure that our actions speak louder than words. Corruption is, above all, a societal problem which manifests in the public and private sector, and tackling it together and decisively we will root it out.

To achieve this, none of us must turn a blind eye to corruption, or in any way encourage it because by doing so, we are ultimately doing our country a disservice.