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Why don't we trust our leaders?

09 March 2012, 12:30

Is it conceivable to think that modern day political leaders can be trusted, purely because they are supposed to be reckoned on election days?

Before the practicality hereof is scrutinized with regards to a South African perspective, let’s first consider the theory behind the statement…

The roots of democracy date back long before Christ, when the Romans came in uprising to their monarch at that time and instituted the system of “Consuls”.

These people were two democratically elected men, who ruled the nation for a period of one year, where after they had to be judged for the decisions they took whilst in power.

These systems were obviously instituted for the protection of the people, but note the main difference between almost 2500 years ago and today. Although the Consuls had to be re-elected, they also had to take responsibility for their deeds. This in turn meant that the failure to be re-elected was not enough of a sanction for wrong doing, as is the case today.

In the instance of the Consuls, one has to understand that this was immediately after the fall of a cruel monarch with no regard for human life. Thus, the stringent accountability of the Consuls, as the people of that time realised that power does corrupt.

The ancient folk even knew how to potentially prevent such a corruption by appointing two leaders instead of one, and secondly by capping the time their leaders ruled to one year, so as to prevent time from corrupting their souls...

Since the notion in today’s climate is that Constitutionality protects us all from our leaders, and that no one really expects them to start killing us left right and centre…(on purpose anyway), what about gross misconduct and incompetency?

Shouldn’t we, as a modern society start moving forward, so as to hold our leaders more accountable for incompetency? Far more anyway than let’s say…getting fired, or not re-elected?

It would seem then that democracy has not changed much in two and a half millennia, and it would also seem that democracy’s old ally, being capitalism, is under heavy fire these days…especially due to the Chinese showing the world how communism may work....on a macroeconomic scale that is.

Something needs to change, and quickly. Why is it that we as “modern” humans in the 21st century are unable to improve on something that was implemented so long ago and by people, in theory anyway, far less developed?

We all moan that today’s leaders are terrible, that the rate and scale of corruption is high, incompetence soars and that the sole purpose most modern day leaders have during their time in office, is to do everything in their power to remain there.

Why then, do we only try to hold politicians accountable for bad deeds and not for bad calls as well? Surely, they have to carry the highest form of accountability…

Doctors and Lawyers are accountable for their patients and clients lives and money, banks for the ethical handling of funds, the new Companies Act even places the same level of accountability on company directors…

All of these people and entities are being held responsible for negligence as well as incompetence, so what about our political leaders then?

Surely, we cannot trust their judgment on everything (or anything for that matter) and surely, their judgement needs to be put to the test at some stage.

The problem is... no one does this…due to statutory limitations. The Government has to bind itself to laws specifically, otherwise they are not bound. Also remember that the protection of Government in most instances extends to the person committing the act or omission, unless such act is fraudulent or grossly negligent.

The bottom line is (and yes, there always is one), the world trend is towards accountability and regulation. 10 Years ago, Corporate Governance was a guideline, today it is enforced in Courts as a measure in accountability.

Times change, people change, governments change...

...or do they?

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