Ethical Cabinet please!

Comment by: Pastor Ray McCauley

Dear Mr President

Little over a week ago South Africans went to the polls to vote for the 6th National General Elections. South Africans from all walks of life made their voices heard loud and clear. We thank all political parties for their peaceful participation in this general election. Indeed, our democracy is maturing with each election.
We also thank the IEC for organizing and managing the elections albeit with hiccups here and there. Given the magnitude of our electoral process one can understand that challenges are bound to happen, however, we call upon the IEC to modernize the whole system in order to avoid those things that could call into question the integrity of the elections.

Mr President, it is an open secret that in these elections you were the carrier of your party, because by itself, has done a lot of damage to its brand. The polls revealed that the trust index for you is better than that of your party and indeed the outcome of the elections has confirmed the same. South Africans have put their trust in you to lead us. South Africa has given you the mandate to take this country forward.

There are a number of issues that ordinary citizens have to contemplate when they return you and your party to office. Once sworn in one of your immediate tasks will be the appointment of your Cabinet. Your party will no doubt have a say on this matter, however appointing the Cabinet is your prerogative.

Will you use this prerogative to appoint men and women who are competent and honourable or will you use it as a tool of political patronage? It is common knowledge that there are people in the previous Cabinet who are not competent and are therefore unfit to hold these positions but for their political capital. Admittedly, you have been working with a Cabinet that you largely inherited from your predecessor.

The competence of your Cabinet members is something that will determine whether your administration moves this country forward or not. The meaning of ‘competence’ in this context is confined to the occurrence of expertise. Will your Cabinet members, Mr President, have indicators of professional experience from the subject areas for which the ministers will be appointed? These indicators include previous political experience from the relevant policy fields as well as relevant educational and professional backgrounds.

If you are going to use these measures, the speed of meaningful change and service delivery may improve. Though we have yet to quantify and document the impact of incompetence by Cabinet on the country’s progress, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure out, for example, that a minister of health with no health training background and experience in the field would be a disaster. At provincial level we saw the result of this with the heart-breaking Esidimeni saga.

South Africa has enough case studies on the problem of “power without competence” and in appointing your Cabinet, Mr President, please spare us this problem. We deserve better than a second rate or third rate Cabinet. This country, including your party, does have competent men and women. You will not be short of talent and choice. Second to our problem of power without competence has been the problem of power without honour. Honour goes with honesty and ethical behaviour. The allegations that have been made against some Cabinet members in the recent past have shamed us a nation. We have had instances where ministers were allegedly influenced by business people on executive decisions. The allegations coming out of the Zondo Commission, for example, speak to the problem of power without honour.

Mr President, you would remove any question about the integrity of your Cabinet if you were to place ethical behaviour above political loyalty in your appointments. We need honourable ministers who will place the country’s interests above their own or those of their friends and families. Honourable ministers will have the courage to differ with you and tell you when they think you are leading the country astray.
It is common knowledge that some former and current ministers kept quiet when they saw signs of state capture creeping in. In fact, some aided it. But that is what will happen with less honourable Cabinet members.
South Africans need Cabinet members who will take their oath of office seriously and live by that same oath. South Africans need Cabinet members who will not be corrupt and more in importantly who will not be corrupted by anyone.

Mr President, the question of age and building a second layer of leadership is going to be critical in appointing your Cabinet. Without appearing to undermine the importance of experience, a significant number of ministers are old and tired. Bring young blood into the Cabinet without ditching those with experience. This can be done through a generational mix that would, among other things, see the relatively young deputy ministers being appointed fully fledged Cabinet members

Finally, Mr President, we implore you to choose men and women in your Cabinet who will put South Africa first. Think about men and women who will put service delivery first. Think about men and women who will boldly deal with the economic challenges we face. Mr President, do the right thing for the people of South Africa. We will continue to pray for wisdom as you choose men and women who will serve the people of South Africa.


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