Get rid of in­com­pe­tent bums

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - DOU­GLAS GIB­SON

NEL­SON Man­dela used to com­fort him­self in his cell by re­call­ing the words of the poem In­vic­tus by Wil­liam Ernest Hen­ley: It mat­ters not how strait the gate, how charged with pun­ish­ments the scroll, I am the master of my fate, I am the cap­tain of my soul.

South Africans are the mas­ters of our na­tional fate; col­lec­tively able to de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion and suc­cess of our future. Why do we make it so dif­fi­cult for our­selves? When will we in­sist on our politi­cians do­ing what is nec­es­sary for our coun­try to flourish or throw them out?

What most po­lit­i­cal par­ties es­sen­tially want is the same thing: A good start in life for our chil­dren, de­cent hous­ing, de­cent health care, safety for all with far less crime and the con­sti­tu­tion and rule of law op­er­at­ing to pro­tect us, a so­cial safety net for those who can’t com­pete and op­por­tu­ni­ties to achieve their full po­ten­tial. If we all want these good things, why have we so far to go?

The an­swer must surely be that civil ser­vants at ev­ery level and their su­per­vis­ing politi­cians are fail­ing. We go out of our way to make a dog’s break­fast of even the sim­plest mat­ters. Even if the so­lu­tion smacks us in the face, we don’t grab it.

Take our chil­dren’s education for ex­am­ple. No one wants in­fe­rior education. Why tol­er­ate lag­ging education stan­dards, with maths and science rated the worst in the world? Our education spend­ing ex­ceeds most other coun­tries. Our chil­dren are not in­tel­lec­tu­ally in­fe­rior (ex­cept those stunted by mal­nu­tri­tion). Our par­ents mostly do their best. Many teach­ers are ded­i­cated, do­ing a de­cent day’s work. But where is the ac­count­abil­ity? Schools and teach­ers who fail don’t pay the price. When are use­less teach­ers fired? Where is the recog­ni­tion for teach­ers who per­form su­perbly?

What of our mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties? Can you be­lieve that only 18% of 263 mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties re­ceived clean au­dit re­ports for the 2015/2016 fi­nan­cial year be­fore the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion? Only one metro, Cape Town, re­ceived a clean au­dit. Only one coun­cil in Gaut­eng, the DA-led Mid­vaal, re­ceived a clean au­dit. Eighty per­cent of coun­cils in the Western Cape, gov­erned by the DA, re­ceived clean au­dits while in the next best prov­ince, KwaZulu-Na­tal, only 18% did. Coun­cils ir­reg­u­larly spent R16.8 billion.

The vot­ers took some re­me­dial ac­tion, re­plac­ing ANC gov­ern­ments in a num­ber of coun­cils, but some egre­gious ex­am­ples of fi­nan­cial mis­gov­ern­ment oc­cur in coun­cils with huge ANC ma­jori­ties.

The au­di­tor-gen­eral refers to the in­ca­pac­ity of may­ors and ac­count­ing of­fi­cials, re­peat­ing what has been said for two decades. Why doesn’t the ANC en­sure that the peo­ple it elects to im­por­tant of­fice and the of­fi­cials it ap­points are at least vaguely ca­pa­ble of run­ning coun­cils with bud­gets of bil­lions of rand? Why al­low this fi­nan­cial mess to get worse?

Mu­nic­i­pal of­fi­cials are well paid and if jobs were seen not as a reward for party loy­alty or per­sonal loy­alty or recog­ni­tion of fam­ily mem­bers, but as es­sen­tial tools to ef­fi­cient and hon­est gov­ern­ment, we could fix the sit­u­a­tion: Fire the bums and get some com­pe­tent peo­ple to do the work prop­erly.

Don’t ac­cept that there aren’t com­pe­tent peo­ple avail­able. There isn’t a huge na­tional sur­plus of com­pe­tent, qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced peo­ple, but if you go look­ing for them, many are there. Sit­ting as part of a panel in­ter­view­ing ap­pli­cants for se­nior po­si­tions in the largest mu­nic­i­pal util­ity com­pany. I have been im­pressed at the cal­i­bre and the qual­i­fi­ca­tions of well over 100 ap­pli­cants, over­whelm­ingly black, avail­able. Don’t tell me we haven’t the hu­man ma­te­rial to staff mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties. For­get about pol­i­tics and cadre de­ploy­ment, and go for com­pe­tent pro­fes­sion­als.

Com­pe­tence is cer­tainly in short sup­ply in the cabi­net. It seems not to be a re­quire­ment for min­is­ters. This is a tragedy. Ir­re­spec­tive of who’s in power, it’s es­sen­tial that those who rule us are ef­fi­cient, ca­pa­ble and hon­est.

We have one of the largest cab­i­nets in the world, backed up by hordes of deputy min­is­ters do­ing lit­tle. Some know what they are do­ing. Some are hon­est, qual­i­fied and ca­pa­ble of do­ing the job, but many are qual­i­fied only by their sup­port for Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and their close­ness to the pres­i­den­tial friends, the Gup­tas.

When last was a min­is­ter fired for do­ing an in­com­pe­tent job? It’s nec­es­sary only to men­tion some­one like So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini to make the point. There are many oth­ers. Why not get rid of the bums and re­place them with fit­for-pur­pose ap­pointees?

Then we come to our coun­try’s min­eral wealth. There’s surely al­most no one who does not want our min­eral resources to be used for the ben­e­fit of the peo­ple in terms of jobs pro­vided, and taxes paid by em­ploy­ees and prof­itable min­ing com­pa­nies to en­able the gov­ern­ment to do the so­cial spend­ing that we need and in­vestors to in­vest in the de­vel­op­ment of the in­dus­try.

Ours is the rich­est min­eral en­dow­ment of any coun­try, yet we con­tin­u­ally slip down the ta­ble of min­ing coun­tries. This is at­trib­ut­able to gov­ern­ment poli­cies, not least the lat­est Min­ing Char­ter pro­mul­gated by the Gupta-ap­proved Mosebenzi Zwane, un­der-equipped to be the min­is­ter of min­eral resources. He and the pres­i­dent, who’s sup­port­ing him, are do­ing im­mense and un­nec­es­sary dam­age to this im­por­tant in­dus­try. Are there no eco­nom­i­cally lit­er­ate cabi­net mem­bers who are pre­pared to speak out to save our min­ing future?

The so­lu­tion to all this lies in the hands of the vot­ers. We’re en­ti­tled to the best. When are we go­ing to in­sist that we re­ceive it?

IN­EPT: When last was a min­is­ter fired for do­ing an in­com­pe­tent job? It’s nec­es­sary only to men­tion some­one like So­cial De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Batha­bile Dlamini to make the point, says the writer.

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