Sharing responsibility

2009-06-24 00:00

FEW people realise that in his maiden state of the province address, Premier Zweli Mkhize sought to transform the very soul of the province by requiring a sense of obligation on each person to make such impact that it creates a possibility to realise a better life for all.

In a letter to a mass rally in Soweto in 1985, Isithalandwe Nelson Mandela said: “In life, every man has twin obligations — obligations to his family … and … obligations to his people, his community and his country.”

Mkhize’s address focused on intangibles. He understood that under Manzankosi (Sbu Ndebele), the province did well on tangibles like housing, roads and water. Khabazela (Zweli Mkhize) sought to build on this by constructing a new culture of service and leadership, one built on twin obligations to personal worth and public good. This means Khabazela’s term will be measured by the standard of service and leadership achieved. With regard to rural development, Khabazela promised to revitalise subsistence agriculture through extension support, supply of essential inputs and the creation of secondary co-operatives. He promised to make households economically viable. One home, one garden is the new motto in this regard. Communities are to be active participants in their development rather than passively depending on the government.

On creating decent work, Khabazela alluded to a trilateral jobs summit to devise a road map. He wants the province to take advantage of existing infrastructure development, tourism, as well as to better target new investments. There will also be a co-operatives movement to drive “the new struggle for economic emancipation” by the disadvantaged communities, thus placing an obligation on disadvantaged communities to actively pursue opportunities for development.

On education, Gcwabe ka Zihlandla (Mkhize) pointed to expansion of children exempted from school fees, reduction of teacher-pupil ratios, programmes to improve science and technology education, enhancing literacy and further training. He announced an intention to get communities to transform the culture of learning and teaching. This will include shared twin obligations to ensure that pupils are at school, teachers are in class and that schools are run responsi­bly.

Besides promising that there will be no overexpenditure under Sibongiseni Dhlomo, the new MEC, Mkhize also promised to turn the Department of Health around through the revitalisation of health institutions, a focus on primary health care, military-style war on infectious diseases, and private-public partnership.

The fight against crime and corruption will be a joint responsibility of government and civil society, he declared. For its part, the government will improve internal co-ordination, prioritise crimes against women and children, and accelerate skills development and economic empowerment to deal with root causes of criminality. The volunteer campaign will provide space for people to act on their twin obligation to serve.

On issues of governance, the premier undertook to sort out the municipalities, to strengthen intergovernmental co-ordination and to improve communication. There will be an ombudsman to receive complaints from civil society about the provision of services. “No rude … civil servant will be tolerated,” he decreed.

In closing, the premier urged the government to return the trust bestowed on it by the people through their votes in an effort to build a caring and compassionate society. He wants a province based not just on technical efficiency and outputs, but also on moral outcomes like love, respect and friendship.

Khabazela is seeking to transform the very soul of the province, hoping to see not just increased numbers of jobs, houses, taps and toilets, but more virtues on the part of both the civil servants and citizens.

To do so, his leadership must change the institutional culture both in the government and in society. Managers from heads of departments to the supervisor manning the Thusong Centre in KwaSwayimane will need more than technical competence. They will have to acquire leadership skills — the intangibles. They will need personal drive and a sense of obligation to society. Theirs will be to nurture the leadership potential in others. They should build public confidence in the province’s ability to realise a better life for all. They will learn from izimbongi the skills of collective introspection and envisioning. The disempowering discourse of service delivery will give way to the culture of collective responsibility for the common good.

If Khabazela succeeds in instilling this paradigm of leadership in elected officials, civil servants and citizens, he will have begun a profound change in the province, one based on personal twin obligations to one’s family and to society. This is a noble vision, Gcwabe!

• Dr Siphamandla Zondi is director: Southern Africa at the Institute for Global dialogue.

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