What’s in a name?

2011-07-16 10:35

There is tacit acknowledgement by many that the introduction of the Batho Pele service standard framework did not culminate in the envisioned “transformed public service, which is representative, coherent, transparent, efficient, effective, accountable and responsive to the needs of all”.

We continue to witness behaviour from our civil servants that detracts from the new government’s vision and mission in terms of rendering quality services to the public.

The media continually inundate us with stories of public servants whose conduct is anathema to the spirit of Batho Pele.

We recently saw on TV the horrifying story of a man whose leg had to be amputated because nurses at Lebowakgomo Hospital in Limpopo allegedly neglected to take care of his wound.

The story of the man in that hospital was shown in the month that the world was celebrating Mandela Day.

As I thought of this day, I asked myself two questions: First, what qualities does Nelson Mandela epitomise, and second, what needs to be done to ensure that these qualities permeate our civil service and the society at large in honour of this icon?

The answers lie in the name Mandela.

» The M stands for magnanimity.
Mandela has proved that as human beings we have the propensity to rise above bitter experiences and forgive.

His generosity is manifested in the charity organisations he set up. May our attitude to others, especially towards the less fortunate and the vulnerable, be underpinned by this quality.

I have realised that many people in the middle-income bracket can in their lifetime afford to send at least one student not related to them to university, but we are so bogged down in crass materialism that we never think of others.

» A stands for accountability.
We may not agree on the pervasiveness of corruption in South Africa, but it is a malady that has a harmful effect on society. There is a plethora of literature on this insidious disease’s stifling effect on government’s effectiveness.

We owe it to Mandela to fight corruption, both in the public and private sector, and embrace good governance practices.

As a teacher, I feel that I owe it to Mandela to be passionate about my work and to remember that I am dealing with someone whose future can either exacerbate or get rid of poverty in his or her home.

It is very disheartening to read about poor levels of literacy when a significant proportion of the budget is spent on education.

» N stands for neighbourliness and a nurturing spirit.
I wonder what happened to the adage “it takes a village to raise a child”.

With an increasing number of child-headed households, we owe it to Mandela to be concerned about what is happening to these households and offer our assistance.

I have noted that in many instances, child abuse continues because of the silence of neighbours.

We need to nurture, in any conceivable way, the potential that our young people have in order for us to have a better society.

»D stands for democracy, diligence, dedication and dignity.
The benefits that accrue to people in a democracy have not yet filtered through to many people because of the lack of a dedicated civil service that treats people with dignity.

A changing management strategy similar to what we saw in the South African Revenue Service and Home Affairs is needed to instil in our civil servants these qualities.

» E is for empathy, empowerment and excellence.
Empathy would ensure that we treat immigrants better and we teach our learners to the best of our abilities, even if our own children are in private schools elsewhere. Empathy would ensure we treat patients, especially old, illiterate people better.

» L is for love.

Allow me to invoke the Biblical definition of love, which captures the essence of who Mandela is.

Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth.

» The last A stands for availability.
We should all strive to be available to do community work.

I strongly believe that we should all be imbued with a sense of responsibility towards our communities.

Let us embrace Mandela principles alongside Batho Pele principles.

» Bvuma is a schoolteacher from Limpopo

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