Time to put peo­ple first

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS -

UNITY and a lead­er­ship that lis­tens to or­di­nary folk, putting their con­cerns first, was cen­tral to Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma’s ad­dress yes­ter­day to the thou­sands of peo­ple who at­tended the ANC’s 105 birth­day cel­e­bra­tions.

This is the same plea made re­cently by the DA mayor of Joburg, Her­man Mashaba, who urged em­ploy­ees to put aside their po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences and work to­gether. Two po­lit­i­cal par­ties, same mes­sage. A cen­tral theme here is Batho Pele, a Setswana phrase for “peo­ple first”; and as many peo­ple re­turn to work today fol­low­ing their De­cem­ber hol­i­days, it’s im­por­tant that pub­lic of­fice-bear­ers re­mem­ber that their first and fore­most duty is to serve the peo­ple.

They should pri­ori­tise ser­vice de­liv­ery, en­sur­ing that peo­ple’s ba­sic con­sti­tu­tional rights are met.

When Mashaba took of­fice after his party won the City of Joburg, which was pre­vi­ously ruled by the ANC, there was trep­i­da­tion about whether he would show ANC-aligned em­ploy­ees the door or sim­ply make their lives dif­fi­cult so that they leave of their own ac­cord.

There was also con­cern about whether the ANCaligned em­ploy­ees would pull up their socks and work, or sim­ply drag their feet to spite the DA.

In a bid to al­le­vi­ate their fears, Mashaba wrote a let­ter to city em­ploy­ees last week, ex­press­ing his grat­i­tude and great re­spect for their com­mit­ment to work­ing to­wards a bet­ter Joburg.

He fur­ther thanked them for the pro­fes­sional man­ner in which they had han­dled the transition, call­ing on them to ad­just their mind­set for the bet­ter­ment of the lives of Joburg res­i­dents.

Over the years, the city has been bogged down by a billing cri­sis that left many res­i­dents frus­trated due to be­ing over-billed and feel­ing largely ig­nored by city of­fi­cials.

If Mashaba’s let­ter is any­thing to go by, Joburg res­i­dents should breathe a sigh of re­lief, know­ing that the pub­lic of­fice-bear­ers will con­tinue to work tire­lessly in re­solv­ing their billing is­sues, or bet­ter still, en­sur­ing they don’t get ridicu­lously high bills.

By pri­ori­tis­ing res­i­dents’ con­cerns and putting aside their po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences, pub­lic of­fice­bear­ers will fast-track ser­vice de­liv­ery and find so­lu­tions to the in­fra­struc­ture back­logs, which Mashaba said amounted to R170 mil­lion.

The united front should, how­ever, not be lim­ited to the City of Joburg. It would be great to hear the same mes­sage of grat­i­tude ex­pressed by all the other may­ors in our coun­try, where each mu­nic­i­pal worker will know that their duty is to serve the peo­ple and work in unity with their col­leagues, re­gard­less of their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions or loy­alty to fac­tions within po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

The same should go for those hold­ing po­si­tions in pro­vin­cial and na­tional spheres of gov­ern­ment.

In his speech, Zuma called on ANC mem­bers to build a car­ing, lis­ten­ing and re­spon­sive ANC, re­mind­ing them of how tak­ing peo­ple for granted cost them at the polls last year.

So, pub­lic of­fice-bear­ers, re­mem­ber that those you serve will hold you ac­count­able in the next elec­tions.

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