Public servants must copy Mother of the Nation

2018-04-08 00:00
Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

Winnie Madikizela-Mandela. (Felix Dlangamandla, Netwerk24)

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In a few days, we will lay to rest one of the most steadfast and committed freedom fighters of our time. The colossal influence of Winnie Mandela as an activist and an ardent campaigner for equality and social justice has been an inspiration to many generations in the freedom struggle of South Africa and beyond. Not only has she inspired many inside the country but her influence served in great measure to galvanise the support of the international community to the fight against the atrocities of apartheid.

From the domestic treason trial campaigns of the 1950s to the more recent Release Mandela Campaign, the name of Winnie Mandela remains the constant beacon of what it means to be a servant of the people. Her revered title of Mother of the Nation was earned through blood, sweat and tears in the service of those who could not stand up for themselves against a brutal social system. Some still portray a negative image of who she was, but her contribution to the freedom struggle of our people shall forever remain an inspiration for generations to come.

This courage and commitment should inspire us to serve our people with humility, dignity, commitment and a sense of accountability. When she became the first black social welfare worker more than six decades ago, Winnie Mandela distinguished herself as a selfless public servant and lover of humanity. Abandoning a lucrative scholarship to study abroad, she chose to spend her life among the needy and vulnerable to become a foot soldier in the fight against dehumanising poverty, degradation and racial hatred.

The advent of our democracy owes its existence to the foresight and selflessness of people like Mama Winnie and her generation of freedom fighters. Among other gains of this democracy is the much-hailed Constitution that guarantees the rights of all citizens to human dignity, equality and social justice. In the context of the public service, in particular, the Constitution enjoins us to observe the democratic values and principles, which demand a high standard of professional ethics, transparency and accountability.

Unfortunately, the public service has been marred with a heavy cloud of unaccountability, corruption and countless acts of misconduct. Every day we witness ugly scenes and incidents that have no place in the public service that purports to put people first. Cases of bribery, corruption, absenteeism and wasteful expenditure, among others, serve as an indictment to the integrity and image of the public service. Unless we adopt a selfless attitude and commitment to the values of our Constitution, we will remain a dark horse in the race towards prosperity in our country.

The public service is the only real interface and vehicle for members of the public to experience the gains of our democracy through service delivery. If we cannot use the public service machinery to serve the needs of our people, we would not only be in breach of the Constitution itself but also would be denying citizens the enjoyment of the fruits of our democracy.

Winnie Mandela died at a critical time in the historical calendar of our country: the centenary celebrations of former president Nelson Mandela and the moment to celebrate the dawn of democracy and freedom. Among others, it was the fearless efforts of Winnie Mandela that kept his dreams and aspirations alive while he was incarcerated with his comrades on Robben Island.

We should use these historic milestones to remind ourselves of our responsibility towards the people of South Africa. As they did, we should commit ourselves and discharge our respective responsibilities without an expectation of personal gain. We should use the occasion to celebrate our freedom to reflect on the achievements and shortcomings of our democratic government.

The commitment and fearlessness of Winnie Mandela should inspire every public servant to confront the challenges that continue to beset the public service, which in turn compromise the work of our government in delivering quality services to our people.

You will always be a shining example of what a public servant should be.

Rest in peace Mam’ Winnie Mandela.

- Dlodlo is minister of public service and administration

Read more on:    winnie ­madikizela-mandela

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