It will be dif­fi­cult but not im­pos­si­ble to achieve Batho Pele

Sunday Tribune - - BIG ISSUE - RUDI KIMMIE

SPRING has sprung. New life has spawned; bar­ren lands have be­come lush with growth and re­ju­ve­na­tion. It’s only in our turgid pol­i­tics where rigor mor­tis and de­cay still pre­vail.

There are no “green shoots” of wis­dom to ad­dress the prob­lems fac­ing the na­tion. In­stead, we are fed a daily toxic dose of what many of our politi­cians are up to. It seems we’re still doomed to our “win­ter of de­spair”.

The cur­rent lead­er­ship bat­tles rag­ing within the ANC have paral­ysed South Africa. State re­sources are di­verted to ei­ther pro­tect or un­der­mine cer­tain fac­tions, while po­ten­tial in­vestors and or­di­nary cit­i­zens wait in the wings to see which way the dice falls.

The tragedy aris­ing from these are the op­por­tu­nity costs, waste of pre­cious time, and crush­ing of the hope of mil­lions of our young who still be­lieve in the dream that a bet­ter life is in reach.

In such a volatile and com­plex po­lit­i­cal cli­mate, it’s easy for hope­less­ness to set in. How­ever, the trump card we as or­di­nary cit­i­zens can play in such un­cer­tain times is to as­sert our in­di­vid­ual power and take charge of our at­ti­tudes and what mean­ing we give to what we see hap­pen­ing around us.

One way to re­spond and bring im­me­di­ate re­lief to our angst is to find in­spi­ra­tion in the small, pow­er­ful, yet mean­ing­ful changes we can bring to our lives. As hu­mans, our gre­gar­i­ous na­ture feeds off the sol­i­dar­ity and support of oth­ers.

There­fore, at a ba­sic level, we need to em­brace the Batho Pele (Peo­ple First) prin­ci­ples that pro­mote em­pa­thy and ser­vice ex­cel­lence.

If each per­son, es­pe­cially those in the ser­vice in­dus­tries – our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, state owned en­ter­prises, pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions and the busi­ness sec­tor – can em­body these val­ues, there will be im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit in the lives of or­di­nary South Africans.

El­e­vat­ing the Batho Pele prin­ci­ples should not be dif­fi­cult in a coun­try that has given us the most pro­gres­sive con­sti­tu­tion in the world, and that has birthed some of the great­est hu­man­i­tar­i­ans of the 21st cen­tury, such as Nel­son Man­dela and more re­cently, Gift of the Givers’ Dr Im­tiaz Sooli­man.

It is just that our hu­man­ist val­ues of ubuntu need to mi­grate from wall plaques and find their way into the hearts and minds of our peo­ple.

The hu­man-cen­tred­ness theme that wound its way from the Free­dom Char­ter to the RDP and fi­nally to the Con­sti­tu­tion en­abled many of the suc­cesses of the postapartheid govern­ment.

Spurred on by a con­certed drive for so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal re­form, in­creased state fund­ing, com­mit­ment and a vast num­ber of new pol­icy pro­nounce­ments achieved good progress in re­duc­ing the in­equal­i­ties of the apartheid legacy.

Be­sides the phys­i­cal and lo­gis­ti­cal chal­lenges of trans­for­ma­tion – col­laps­ing nu­mer­ous, di­verse and separate de­part­ments into co­her­ent ones; de­vel­op­ing a com­mon pur­pose; re­sourc­ing un­der­funded mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties – sig­nif­i­cant suc­cesses were achieved.

Some of these in­clude the mas­si­fi­ca­tion of higher ed­u­ca­tion, the roll-out of low-cost hous­ing, as well as elec­tri­fi­ca­tion and wa­ter ser­vices which in the apartheid past were not read­ily avail­able to the ma­jor­ity.

Un­for­tu­nately, sub­se­quent to our post-apartheid “hon­ey­moon”, what has be­come a tight noose around our col­lec­tive necks re­mains the po­lit­i­cal po­lar­i­sa­tion aris­ing from dif­fer­ing ide­o­log­i­cal stand­points. This has re­sulted in the bat­tles play­ing out cur­rently on the na­tional stage.

From a Batho Pele per­spec­tive, we should re­alise that as South Africans we share a com­mon destiny and the fo­cus should al­ways be about cre­at­ing a more sus­tain­able and bet­ter life for all.

With the democ­racy div­i­dend from our rel­a­tively peace­ful po­lit­i­cal tran­si­tion in 1994 squan­dered, what could have trans­lated into a vi­brant and grow­ing econ­omy, has in­stead slumped into a grant econ­omy where about a third of the pop­u­la­tion sub­sists on hand­outs, gen­er­ated by a de­clin­ing tax base.

Batho Pele is not a govern­ment pri­or­ity alone. It should be em­braced by all. So­cial me­dia crack­les with sto­ries of con­sumers be­ing abused by large re­tail­ers. Con­sumer watch­dog or­gan­i­sa­tions have many hor­ror sto­ries of in­di­vid­u­als be­ing skinned by com­pa­nies with scant re­gard for the un­eth­i­cal con­duct of their ac­tions.

It is not sur­pris­ing that there is ris­ing anger at mo­nop­oly cap­i­tal. The dan­ger is that this anger is not log­i­cal but lashes out and tar­nishes all cap­i­tal with the same brush.

Build­ing a Batho Pele cul­ture will not be easy, es­pe­cially when there is so much frus­tra­tion and dis­ap­point­ment. But it is at­tain­able through us rad­i­cally re­shap­ing our think­ing and how we con­ceive of and re­spond to re­al­ity.

Per­haps we should learn from the Ja­panese kaizen phi­los­o­phy which em­pha­sises con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment and in the long term aims to achieve small, in­cre­men­tal changes to im­prove ef­fi­ciency and qual­ity.

Kimmie is UKZN’S man­ager of the Hub for the African City of the Fu­ture and an as­so­ci­ate of the Lead­er­ship Di­a­logue. He writes in his per­sonal ca­pac­ity.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.