For generations our Sunday newspapers have been sensational and titillating in their news coverage and last Sunday’s papers were no exception. The only difference is that these Sundays, as far as most readers are concerned, there is nothing sensational, unexpected or surprising about the reports of the financial irregularities of enormous proportions and the massive corruption in our society.
There is nothing surprising in Rapport and City Express front-page accounts of Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s silent coup of the Treasury using his own officials; and there’s nothing sensational about the report on the front-page of the Sunday Times of the Cape Town businessman, Dr Mohammed Iqbal Surve, who is already an extensive beneficiary of pension funds, seeking additional funding from PIC to complete a major corporate takeover (of Chevron) in which he is obviously a serious player.
Corruption, which one newspaper editorially describes as ANC policy, aside from the tremendous economic and social damage it causes, results in a sense of total disillusionment in our society. Nobody at this time can be proud of our country, and good men and women as a consequence think it is a waste of time protesting. And I want to stress that this applies to persons of all communities, including many ANC supporters.
While this is very understandable I don’t think it’s the only response. There is something we can do, particularly as we are into election mode, and the coming election is very different from the last one in Polokwane where there were only two candidates. At least seven leading members have already declared their determination to stand in the December ANC election. They include Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Zweli Mkhize, Baleka Mbete, Jeff Radebe, Lindiwe Sisulu and Mathews Phosa. And Barney Mthombothi says ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe also fancies his chances.
In good time, and well before the ANC announces its candidates, I would hope to see Mmusi Maimane and Bantu Holomisa announcing their candidatures and — this is most important — committing themselves to good government — which is what South African individuals and organisations must publicly insist all candidates commit to. And this should be a very specific and public commitment.
I did a little research on this and found that the Australian auditing commission has formulated a list of principles which should apply in all democratic societies:
Principles of Good Government.
1. Live within your means. All government spending should be assessed on the basis of its long-term cost and effectiveness and the sustainability of the nation’s long-term finances.
2. Harness the benefits of the government but demand a responsible government.
3. Protect the truly disadvantaged. Government should protect the truly disadvantaged and target public assistance to those most in need.
4. Respect personal responsibility and choice. Government should not and cannot eliminate or insure every risk to the community. Personal responsibility and choice are fundamental to our democratic system.
5. Assure value for taxpayer’s money and ministerial responsibility. Governments spend taxpayer’s money not the government’s money. They must assure value across all expenditure and constantly strive to improve productivity and eliminate waste. All programmes should be regularly assessed for effectiveness against their stated goals and outcomes. Ministerial responsibility is imperative and departments should be the primary source of policy advice.
6. Be transparent and honest. Transparency and honesty are fundamental to accountability. Government policy goals and programme outcomes must be transparent. Transparency in government will better illuminate the choices we face and the decisions needed for the overall good of the nation. Spending on lower priorities, however popular at the time, needs to be resisted.
7. Reduce complexity. Government should reduce complexity which impacts on its own operations, the operations of the provinces and the activities of the community and business.
8. Avoid regulation as a first response to a problem. Adding new regulations to deal with problems should be the last resort and introduced only when existing laws prove inadequate and the risks of no regulation outweigh the costs to the community.
9. Act in the public interest and recognise the benefits of markets. In competitive markets, customers, not producers, take precedence. Competition and contestability drive lower costs, improve quality and give people what they want. Government should act in the public interest and only intervene in markets where market solutions fail to produce the best outcome for the nation as a whole.
10. Do not deliver services if others are better placed to do it. The delivery of public services should, wherever practicable, be handed to those organisations and levels of government closest to those receiving the service and should not be duplicated.
Turning to South Africa’s election, every presidential candidate should be required to publicly and specifically adopt these principles and to do so on the demand of trade unions and business associations, professional associations – and news media, and in particular individual citizens, should be encouraged to convey their demands via social media.
Dr Denis Worrall is the Founder of The Cape Messenger