Do as I say, not as I do

2014-06-08 15:00

What a double-standards week we’ve come through. Integrity in public life is a declining resource, but this week took the biscuit. Here’s how:

1. Last week, City Press revealed that Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana paid the single worker on his property only R800 a month when the sector minimum was far higher.

In addition to his Cabinet hat, Zokwana is also the chairperson of the SA Communist Party (SACP), which stands for a society of absolute equality and communal ownership.

Beyond the slave wage, Zokwana had allowed a previous worker to live in a zinc shack not fit for an animal.

And the local community had complained for a long time that the minister acquired his land through unprocedural ways.

The SACP response: that our report was hysterical and that the unemployed young worker was happy for what he received. Two points: the SACP and the agriculture minister are meant to be exemplars of the laws they put in place for others to follow.

The second point: if our minimum wages are unaffordable and impractical, then change them for all employees.

2. One of the more sane elements in the Economic Freedom Fighters’ manifesto is to get public officials and political leaders to use public services. If our leaders think public schools, hospitals and security are not good enough for them, then why is it good enough for the people they serve?

But the party’s commitment goes no further than the paper or digital medium it’s written on. This week, party leader Julius Malema said he would not take his young son out of a private crèche or use public hospitals until they were up to standard.

He missed an opportunity to show up Cabinet members who have steadfastly refused to answer City Press’ questions of where their children go to school and which health facilities they use.

3. Did we hear wrong, or did Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Pansy Tlakula really tell the court that she had made a lapse of judgement as IEC chief executive in procuring office space for the commission – but that she should not be held accountable for it?

Why? Because she now holds higher office (akin to a judge) and she can’t be held responsible for her actions in a previous role.

Our leaders should know their actions spill over into society – and should be seen as more important than their words.

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