Based on the quality of the vote

2014-07-01 00:00

SURELY, one way or the other, we all took part in the liberation struggle against colonialism and the apartheid settler white-minority regime? But surely, after 20 years of democracy, we cannot continue to give credit to colonialism and apartheid when some of those we have entrusted with the responsibility to be our public representatives, to manage state power and resources, continue to fail dismally, steal from taxpayers and abuse state power and resources for their personal benefit, and in some instances to settle some party political squabbles?

The quality of the vote determines the quality of the public representatives that we have in the National Council of Provinces, National Assembly, provincial legislatures and local councils. This, by and large, represents the quality of service delivery that we should expect as citizens at all levels.

Even though there should be a clear separation between the elected officials and the appointment of officials in public service, the reality is that some of the elected public representatives do have political influence on the appointment of senior officials at national, provincial and municipal levels. This is where there is a direct link between the quality of the vote, public representatives and service delivery.

In my view, if South African citizens and political parties are not going to pay attention to the quality of those who become public representatives, they should not be surprised by poor service delivery. There are good public servants at national, provincial and municipal levels, but we all know about the disastrous impact cadre deployment has had on the morale of experienced, knowledgeable, qualified and competent employees, as well as on service delivery. Public representatives should never confuse their oversight role with the demand by some for interference in the daily administration of state organs, institutions, departments and municipalities.

As well as enjoying their large salary packages and lucrative benefits, public representatives must also take responsibility for poor service delivery, more especially those who belong to the majority party. It means they are failing and continue to fail in their oversight role.

The argument being advanced here is that as long as we have public representatives who do not understand what it means to be a public representative, irrespective of the political party they represent, and who do not have a clear understanding of their oversight role in terms of service delivery, we cannot expect world-class services to be provided to citizens at all levels.

The quality of the public representative is also directly determined by the quality of the vote.

I do not believe that the Independent Electoral Commission is doing enough through its outreach programmes to teach people about democracy and the implications thereof.

I do not believe that heckling and howling at each other at the National Council of Provinces, National Assembly, provincial legislatures and local councils, will in any way help to strengthen and improve the quality of our hard-earned democracy.

I doubt if Steve Biko, in particular, died for his name to be used during the heckling and howling by the parties during parliamentary sessions.

Twenty years is far too long; people need to see meaningful changes and service delivery now, not in 2030. South Africa urgently needs public representatives who are role models, who have new and practical ideas, and less rhetoric, to take the country forward for the benefit of all South Africans now and in the future. South Africa needs public representatives who are willing to serve the people selflessly, with pride, to restore the respect, excellence, dignity and discipline in all areas where they are deployed, from the president to members of mayoral executive committees.

Lastly, we need public representatives who understand that to serve as a public representative is a privilege, courtesy of South African voters.

The best reward public representatives can give to South African voters is not to heckle and howl, but to contribute towards excellent service delivery through the demonstration of exemplary leadership and oversight roles.

Public representatives are paid by South African taxpayers, and if they are of the view that service delivery has nothing to do with them, let them all serve free of charge.

• Lesego Sechaba Mogotsi is a member of the Azanian People’s Organisation.

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