Maimane's "Political Responsibility" Demands

2015-09-10 12:45

DA leader Mmusi Maimane, since becoming the leader of the DA in parliament and also party leader has  consistently demanded political responsibility from the government. Maimane has dismissed all efforts aimed at combating corruption and malfeasance as inadequate 'if no political responsibility is taken". The arrest of corrupt government officials including workplace disciplinary actions, asset forfeitures and fines have not been welcomed by him as adequate measures to punish and show seriousness about corruption.

On the Nkandla Prestige Project cost creep and the alleged corruption by civil servants and the main contractor business man who now faces the SIU in court over the same matter, Maimane has said all the actions are not enough if there is no political accountability and responsibility over the project itself and its execution. In essence, having had the government acknowledge and take responsibility for the project is not enough, according to him.

Maimane holds a view that ministers must be fired and president Zuma should resign because they allowed the project to be managed badly by the government department in charge and that a business man saw an opportunity to loot state coffers through the relaxed environment with which the Public Works Department handled the project which saw government leasing land next to President Zuma homestead to build a R120 million civil service compound escalating the Zuma security upgrade of R51 million to include the civil service compound with the project totalling R206 million including professional fees.

But what exactly is political responsibility?

In sociology and political sciences there are studies in political ethics which deal with both morality and ethics in a political ecosystem. These are amplified by political process in office and ethics of policies from the political process, from these we derive political responsibility.

In the instance of Nkandla Prestige Project, the issue to be examined is whether the political process of having to have the public funding the security which includes private homes of political VIPs is infact proper. The next stage is to analyse whether the ethics of this policy is sound in terms of the general political ecosystem. Once these are known, responsibility is spread across. Should malfeasance occur or good results be attained, it is also clear as to where blame or praise would lay.

When the BBC host of HardTalk confronted Maimane that; "you make a  lot of accusations and are always proven wrong, yet people you accuse are never identified as responsible by credible and responsible bodies i.e. on Nkandla and Marikana", Maimane exclaimed that he wants political responsibility.

Maimane seeks the ascription of collective fault and blame. He believes when public servants do wrong it is the fault of the political head. Everybody is at fault, the entire ecosystem and its community.

However Maimane's demands highlight just how narrow his political process is. Political responsibility differs from a liability he hopes to get, the witch hunt, a backward looking liability model of responsibility. Further, this concept purports all become right just cause a "Jesus" came forth to die for a sin caused by others.

Incidentally, he does not demand the same collective blame on his own party led governments he demands on others.

Proper responsibility is about seeking to look at forward looking and not backward looking political responsibility . It is about a specific outcomes from responsibility. The law in South Africa assigns groups or individuals with responsibility. The law that deals with public funds management removes politicians from funds management placing this squarely on civil servants shoulders. Political responsibility is charged with making sure - when it is revealed that a wrong has been done, such is not swept under carpet but opened up and dealt with however embarrassing to politicians and civil servants alike, so that the general public would assign "political responsibility" accordingly.

Political responsibility is about saying 'ABCD' was handled badly and politicians taking steps to mitigate against repeat whilst the law takes its course. It is responsibility shared in specific ways. In essence, the toilet saga in Cape Town need not mean the Mayor should be removed from office but be forward looking about what then after.

On Nkandla Prestige Project; it is about what steps have been taken to regularise matters and course for the regulations to be streamlined, has government taken legal action against culprits or not etc. The backward looking model of responsibility will have South Africa changing presidents and ministers daily as Japan and other countries have experienced leading to basic chaos.

Like with his revolutionary socialist slogans "amandla" that he shouts, or the revolutionary liberation guerrilla toyi toyi he does, Maimane takes little time to understand the political meanings of what he says and does, to him its all about sales numbers - he must get at least 500 000 blacks voting for the DA or else his sales job has failed.

With political novices as Maimane (four years experience -only one year in national parliament), the governing party has a hard time going forward as it will not only have to deal with normal oversight competition but the pains of a politician who is learning on the job and in turn confusing all as he is. It is now up to the public to be patient with him as he learns and pay schools fees through wasteful motions and media plotted zinger moments.

Bo Mbindwane @mbindwane (twitter)

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