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People come first: Zamani Saul represents quality of leadership SA always needed

2019-06-13 02:10

What Zamani Saul is doing as premier of Northern Cape represents a real foundation of the true concept of Batho Pele

The last time we heard about the Ministerial Handbook it was being reworked.

It’s possible it is still being reworked.

It is the document that was used to explain the (mis)use of benefits by our esteemed public representatives.

Whenever members of the public complained about the excesses of public servants – including high-end ministerial cars and luxury hotel stays – it was thrown back at them.

Now one man has shown that in fact we did not need the Ministerial Handbook but the conscience of our rulers.

His name is Zamani Saul.

The name Saul in the Northern Cape and across South Africa represents a wholly new thesis.

The new thesis being to give true meaning to the implementation of the official government policy on service delivery and the exhortation of President Cyril Ramaphosa – Thuma Mina – derived from the legendary Hugh Masekela’s song of the same name.

Saul is the chairman of the ANC in the Northern Cape and the new premier of that province.

He was inaugurated a few weeks ago, in an informal settlement.

Before the ink of his swearing in had dried, he shook the establishment with the pronouncements on a range of issues.

Read: It’s time to practise Batho Pele

Among others, he announced that the blue light brigade party was over; there would be no pictures of him and his executive hanging in offices; and there would be no new luxury cars for his team.

Saul’s new measures introduce the solid foundation for true service delivery.

His work station would not be the cushy airconditioned premier’s office. Saul has gone ahead and bought the much needed ambulances instead of the blue light freebies.

His actions remind me of the former president of Malawi, Kamuzu Banda, who was the complete opposite when he came to power.

Banda studied in the US with my grand aunt Charlotte Maxeke who assisted him to obtain a passport by recommending this to a Johannesburg magistrate.

Banda later returned to his native country and became the country’s first black president.

Like Saul, Banda was a highly educated fellow. The big difference though is that Banda would likely feel irritated with what Saul is saying and doing.

He would probably frown upon him and tell Saul that he is misrepresenting what government leaders should be.

Apparently when Banda was president even private companies had to hang his portrait in their offices.

The picture had to be above anything else hanging on the walls.

When Banda visited a city, women had to meet him at the airport dressed in a particular garb and they had to sing and dance for him. You can imagine his convoy of cars and the food he ate.

It is highly likely that, whenever he was in town, the lives of the people came to a standstill – until he left.

Saul is inheriting an office with a reputation for binging on fast foods;,very fond of blue lights and top-of-the-range ministerial cars.

He also inherits a provincial government presiding over an economically depressed area with high levels of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Saul says to this country that he cannot be living in luxury at state expense while a child cannot access higher education because of poverty.

The people of the Northern Cape are now getting a reprieve from all that. What Saul is doing is what true Batho Pele is all about.

People come first. But the people can only come first if the artificial divide between the government fat cats and them is obliterated and equality is restored.

Saul’s new measures introduce the solid foundation for true service delivery. This represents a real foundation of the Thuma Mina concept.

Saul is institutionalising a culture which has been eroded by those occupying public office, those who are supposed to serve the people and not be there for self-gratification.

In the spirit of Batho Pele and Thuma Mina, he is reorientating public representatives and public servants on the core founding values of our democracy and the purpose of the government.

He may sound a populist to some, but in real terms he represents the quality of the leadership this country always needed.

Those responsible for reviewing the elusive Ministerial Handbook may need to consult with him, if they want to produce a proper and relevant handbook.

In effect, he has rewritten it. His posture demonstrates the fact that proper and true leadership is rooted in the conscience rather than in ministerial handbooks.

Saul says to this country that he cannot be living in luxury at state expense while a child cannot access higher education because of poverty.

He is telling us that he cannot be driving a luxury car around when a primary school child has no toilet at her school and relieves herself in the bushes.

He is saying to us that he cannot be enjoying the comfort of an airconditioned office when he hardly knows what happens to his people in the hospitals and other government service delivery points.

This is the real fundamental first step to true service delivery.

Once public representatives and those employed in the government get this principle correct, the pain and persecution of those who depend on government services will end.

Saul, as with any leader, does not need to have his picture on display in every government building for him to gain the people’s respect.

He only needs to serve and be caring. He needs to think less about himself and more about those he is appointed to serve.

Government decisions are more informed by attitudes to service.

It is the attitude of those who believe they are entitled to the best comforts and benefits of incumbency which informs the poor service that the people receive.

It is this attitude which reduces citizens to beggars of their own government. It is this attitude which breeds unethical conduct and this unbridled corruption we see today.

It is this attitude which institutionalises impunity and lack of accountability.

As the saying goes, “the fish rots from the head”. If the head of the government is not rotten, the government will not rot.

Saul must be commended for returning the favour the people extended to him by affording him the privilege to lead them.

The thrust of the Batho Pele policy is that leaders and the government officials are there to serve the people and not themselves.

Saul is sending a clear message to the army of public representatives and public servants of his province that the mantra of business unusual has reached their shores.

The old habits must die now if they are to fit into his correct and proper thinking about service.

They have only one option, which is to serve the people or face the indignity of joining the ranks of the unemployed masses.

For premier Saul, charity begins at home. He has gained the moral authority to demand the same of those under his stewardship.

What a high level of moral courage.

I wish to drive in the Northern Cape where I will not be subjected to abuse by those who use blue lights to cover up their poor time management.

Mannya is a practising advocate and writer


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September 22 2019