Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Pansy Tlakula should marry in their spiritual immorality

2014-07-17 14:47

‘Inappropriate Moves’ happen ‘When Governance and Ethics Fail’. These were the titles of reports produced by the Public Protector in her investigations including Adv. Pansy Tlakula and Mr. Hlaudi Motsoeneng respectively. Both these individuals work, even if dubiously so, in key and strategic institutions of the South African state.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) form fundamental pillars upon which our national democracy is etched. Any form of doubt over the credibility, functionality and integrity of these institutions can easily delegitimize them and by extension the South African democracy.

Institutions on their own, without people to run them, are hollow abstract entities that can only gain shape and meaning when people preside over them. The good standing of any institution is dependent on the quality, vision, conscience and ethical conduct of those individuals who run it. When institutions fail, it is because a combination of failing individuals – whether in vision, governance, financial prudence etc – has been entrusted with the running of the institution.

A many issues and public scandals of power tussles between the politicians of the governing party, the SABC board and the Parliamentary portfolio committee on communications have rocked the SABC. However, the IEC has enjoyed a great deal of admiration and respect for its ability to shine as the beacon of hope in the running of electoral politics in the African continent. The SABC needs a turnaround through appointing individuals fit for purpose to positions of power. The IEC needs its credibility and legitimacy strengthened through the removal of individuals who undermine good governance.

Certainly, Hlaudi Motsoeneng is not the person who can be trusted as being fit for purpose. His articulated vision and approach has been somewhat combative, indicating a person who is interested in using the SABC to fulfill motives that are not entirely in the interest of the public. Pansy Tlakula is definitely that one person (occupying an influential position of Chairperson of the Commission) who lurks over the IEC with serious potential to damage its reputation as a credible institution.

Of course, all human beings are fallible, yet in our fallibility it cannot be that we expect no consequences when we are in breach of agreed upon terms on how to conduct ourselves in the best interests of the organisations we lead. Institutional decay would be the order of the day if we hid behind the veil of ‘being fallible’ to excuse all our transgressions in looking after the well-being of the South African democracy. People must learn to take responsibility for all their actions – cheer and applaud when they do well, but equally reprimand and discipline when they err.

These two individuals should leave the offices they occupy in order to not sacrifice the credibility of the IEC and SABC at the altar of their egos. Tlakula’s public disagreement with the Public Protector, following the release of her report in investigating her misconduct, was mainly based on Tlakula’s interpretation of ‘conflict of interest’ versus that of Madonsela.

Tlakula was found, by Madonsela, to have acted irregularly in the procurement of IEC office space in the Riverside Office Park Building in Centurion, Pretoria. Part of this irregularity was due to the fact that as the CEO of IEC, Tlakula failed to adhere to the prescripts of the Public Finance Management Act and secured office space in a building partly owned by an influential ANC Member of Parliament with whom she has close ties. If this is not conflict of interest and most likely blatant channeling of funds for self-benefit in the long run, then I can never comprehend what ‘conflict of interest’ is.

Tlakula and Motsoeneng must be made to understand the nexus of perception, credibility and legitimacy. It is not always about their interpretation of the law or their perception of reality. It is about preserving the credibility of our public institutions at all costs, refusing to even have them impugned by the tiniest doubt the public may have about the credibility or lack thereof of those that lead such institutions. It is frightening to see the poor level of consciousness amongst senior public officials about the need to allow institutions to remain bigger than individuals are.

Tlakula may want to argue that her incompetence and violation of rules when it comes to procurement has nothing to do with her ability to hold office to execute the primary mandate of conducting free and fair elections, with national political education in between elections. However, what her indiscretions teach us is that she has the ability to let her own self-interests to cloud her judgment in the execution of her duties and this creates the perception that if a day came for her to serve her own selfish political interests through manipulating IEC processes, she could possibly do it.

This is the perception that makes her lack credibility to be at the helm of the IEC and her continued fight to occupy that seat will, with time, affect the IEC’s legitimacy, as people would hold in suspicion every move and/or honest mistake committed by the organisation.

The Hlaudi Motsoeneng matter is almost the stuff that tragic comedy is created out of. There is now detail that the former chairperson of the SABC board, Dr Ben Ngubane, changed the requirements for the SABC COO position to not include education qualifications. That on its own would be hilarious if it were not tragic because this alteration was done simply because Motsoeneng (who lied about passing matric – but blamed a Mrs. Swanepoel for having told him to fill up everything in an application form) was the man destined for the job.

The (little remaining) standards of SABC were dropped, mediocrity given a space to be at home, simply to accommodate this one person. The current SABC board has found no reason to take seriously the Public Protector’s report. Instead, they appointed Motsoeneng as a full-time COO of SABC (after having acted for over two years). Leave that Motsoeneng cooked his matric ‘certificate’ and its ‘results’, he went on to increase his salary three times in one year (while he was acting COO) from R1.5 million per annum to R2.4 million per annum.

Of course, to lie about qualifications or embark on unlawful procurement processes demands harsh action, as it talks to a failure to take the job you occupy seriously. Such actions highlight a sense of narcissism on the part of those that commit them because they show all of us that they have the ability to manipulate institutions to serve their interests first prior to serving the republic. This kind of attitude cannot be tolerated any longer.

The failure for such high profile persons to resign in the wake of this information against them, indicates the deeply entrenched spiritual immorality, which has taken away the ability for people to have a conscience and take responsibility for their misdeeds. When the misdeeds are brought to light, they blame everyone else including ‘third forces in the dark’. At no stage do they as individuals concede to wrongdoing, nor do they wish to address us with humility. They forge ahead with expressed arrogance.

I believe it is time that South Africans and particularly taxpayers demanded civil servants who have the ability to depart their positions of power when they have acted wrongly or in bad faith. This current no consequences approach is bound to spread irregularity, impropriety and poor work ethic within the public service and this will all be to the detriment of the country. We can keep dreaming about building that ‘winning nation’ as we stop moving forward and instead digress backwards.

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