Columns 29.12.2016 08:02 am

Some advice for Busisiwe Mkhwebane

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Gallo Images

Public Protector Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane. Picture: Gallo Images

Our greatest wish for years to come has to be that our public servants do not lose sight of their loyalty to the country – not the ruling party.

When a year has been as tumultuous as this one has been, it’s difficult to see the wood for the trees.

Many lines become blurred and the temptation to class everything into one group marked “not to be repeated” grows.

December has not disappointed as our traditional month for unparalleled news stories.

From those “four days in December 2015”, when an abortive Cabinet reshuffle took place, to the revelations about the shambles at the SABC this year, the 12th month has refused to bow out without a fight.

Next year promises to be one in which our country’s destiny will also be shaped by several events, chief among which will be the ruling party’s elective conference that should confirm that our president cannot rule until Jesus returns.

Our greatest wish as citizens has to be that our public servants do not lose sight of their loyalty to the country – not the ruling party.

This is important for those in charge of the structures that police our democratic project, namely the public protector, Human Rights Commission, the Independent Police Investigative Directorate and the National Prosecuting Authority.

This year showed us that a guardian of our constitution loyal to the citizenry is far more effective at ensuring our democracy stays intact than the 400-strong elected National Assembly.

So, as we prepare to enter 2017 amid murmurs of the new public protector being unlike her predecessor, we cannot help but urge her to remember that her loyalty has to be to the constitution and the people it seeks to serve and protect.

Any attempts by the office of the public protector to demonstrate its independence by serving the interests of those in power will be completely misguided.

When heads of public institutions are thrown into the spotlight like Thuli Madonsela was during her reign, public opinion tends to be divided about what motives are behind their actions.

Some question whether the focus on the ills of the ruling party is not evidence of the office being biased in favour of the opposition, but the answer to that does not lie in the new public protector taking a “neutral” stance and focus ing less on the ills of the ruling party to appear fair.

No, it lies in the public protector answering the question: am I still being loyal to my oath of office?

Former deputy chief justice of the Constitutional Court, Dikgang Moseneke, captures what the beacon of all public servants should be in his memoir, My Own Liberator, when stating: “It is not what the ruling party wants but what is good for the people that matters.”

It is quite easy for a public protector to feel beholden to those who appear to have “elected” her, forgetting that those people were also elected into their positions to protect the constitution she has been entrusted with the role of being a guardian over.

In Judge Moseneke’s words: “Honesty in the public space must never be sacrificed at the altar of convenience or self-benefit.”

Effective governance and service delivery can only be enhanced when public servants serve for the good of the people. May 2017 prove a year of doing “what’s good for the people”.

Sydney Majoko.

Sydney Majoko.

 

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