PRINCE MANGOSUTHU BUTHELEZI MP
PRESIDENT OF THE INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
Hilton Hotel Durban
South Africa, right now, is a very interesting place to be. Since our political liberation 23 years ago, we have moved through various phases of transformation. We have come from a Government of National Unity, in which all our people were represented and reconciliation was prioritised; to the present, in which opposition parties across the political spectrum are united to remove a sitting president. This is a very different country to the South Africa of 1994. But is it the South Africa we envisioned when we stepped into democracy?
The answer is quite clearly, no. When we set in motion the RDP, GEAR and then ASGISA, we believed that these economic programmes would drive a higher growth rate, increased employment, and greater equality. Yet here we are, with an NDP that is simply an excellent wish-list, while our economy is plunged into junk status, unemployment keeps rising, and inequality deepens.
Were our programmes misguided? Were they bad policy? Or was it simply a failure to implement that saw each successive programme quietly discarded and replaced? Why was so little said about South Africa’s vacillating economic policy over the past 23 years? How did we end up here, when we had such good plans to end up elsewhere?
These are difficult questions that many would rather avoid. But we must ask them, because the economic wealth of our country and the competence of the government that administers this wealth, are fundamental to how well or how poorly we are able to fulfil the ideals of our Constitution.
Everything in our democratic Constitution is premised on the goal of creating, sustaining and protecting social justice. This is achieved through service delivery; by providing equal access to rights, resources, opportunities and basic necessities. Thus, efficient and effective service delivery will fulfil the aims of our Constitution.
But efficient and effective service delivery depends on a thriving economy and a professional public service. So, when we talk about improving public service delivery, we are talking about improving the resources and the people behind service delivery.
Before I speak about the current state of service delivery and how it might be improved, let me take a moment to explain my qualifications.
I know that when a leader of an opposition party rises to speak, people generally prepare themselves for political rhetoric on the failings of the ruling party and the deficiencies of Government. But I am not here to score any political points. I have served in leadership for more than half a century and have dedicated almost 60 years to pursuing the good of my country. I am, above all, a patriot. I want to see South Africa succeed.
So what you will hear from me today is based on decades of solid experience in administering governance. I know what it takes to run a national department. I know what it takes to run a provincial government. And I know the ins and outs of local governance at municipal level.
Before 1994, I administered the KwaZulu Government for 19 years. At the request of Inkosi Albert Luthuli and Mr Oliver Tambo, I took the helm in KwaZulu when the apartheid government foisted the homelands system on South Africa. Our intention was to undermine the apartheid system from within, as part of a multi-strategy approach to liberation.
For 19 years, through my ministers, directors-general, managers, officials and staff, I administered service delivery for the whole of KwaZulu. It was an exceptionally difficult task. The needs of our people were overwhelming, for we lived under the hardships of apartheid where poverty, under-development, poor infrastructure and a lack of services were simply par for the course.
My administration understood that every cent counted. KwaZulu was afforded a shoestring budget and somehow we had to make it work. Thus we put in place every conceivable measure to ensure good financial management. We held departments accountable for every cent, and made sure that those in charge of the budget were competent and honest.
But our greatest defence against financial loss was a genuine stand against corruption. I made it clear that corruption in any form would not be tolerated. I led by example, ensuring that my own office could not be faulted. Throughout our government, the slightest abuse of power was quickly dealt with, so that corruption could never take root.
This is not just talk. Over the span of 19 years, never once was a single allegation of corruption ever levelled at my administration. We proved that it is possible to run a clean government. Corruption is not inevitable. It should not be tolerated as part of the system.
I took this belief with me when I entered the Government of National Unity in 1994. When President Mandela appointed me as Minister of Home Affairs, I inherited a national department riddled with abuse of power. The bureaucratic mind set was dominated by the need to control, prevent and withhold. Somehow we needed to transform that closed mind set into a philosophy of service.
It was a long-term project and I was grateful to have ten years to work at it. When President Mbeki appointed me as Minister of Home Affairs for a second term in 1999, I continued driving the policies, legislation and corporate culture that prioritised service. And I continued my stand against corruption.
Tragically, the same cannot be said for other government departments. I remember President Mandela speaking to a group of international journalists and lamenting the presence of corruption in government. He said, and I quote, “Little did we suspect that our own people, when they got a chance, would be as corrupt as the apartheid regime. That is one of the things that has really hurt us.”
Standing at a good distance from those early days of democracy, we can look back and study the trajectory of governance and service delivery. Even looking purely at the reports of the Auditor General, it is evident that governance has weakened and that service delivery has decreased. These two are inextricably linked.
This brings us to the people behind service delivery. It is not only financial resources that determine how well government delivers, but who administers those financial resources. What kind of human resources do we have managing national, provincial and municipal budgets? Are they trained professionals or political appointments?
As you have no doubt heard in this conference, there is a global move towards putting technocrats in key governance positions. I think, for instance, of Taiwan where a new president was inaugurated last year. I attended the presidential inauguration and met with various new ministers. It was interesting to see their backgrounds and how they had been selected from a pool of professionals in their fields.
Unfortunately, that is not how it works in South Africa. Within many municipalities, positions are filled through cadre deployment. This happens even in provincial and national departments, where jobs are reserved for party members, family members or friends of the MEC. Generally, it is not what you know, but who you know, that gets you a job in government.
This is a great pity, because often the most competent, most experienced and most suitable candidate loses out to someone less suitable, less competent and less experienced. Consequently, job performance suffers. Resources are not as well managed, programmes are not kept on track, communication falters, and, ultimately, service delivery decreases.
It is essential that the right people are placed in the right positions when it comes to governance. Qualifications should be a non-negotiable. They should also be verified to prevent fraud, which is becoming more common. Relevant experience is also essential. I have often been amazed at applications for positions, where, for instance, someone who has worked as a cashier for three years is now applying to become a director of communications in a district municipality.
Sadly, there is widespread unemployment in our country and people are desperate for jobs. We have many graduates and students looking for work in their chosen field. But still they might not be the right person for the job. A career in the civil service demands a certain kind of character. It demands integrity, a willingness to be held accountable, respect for authority, sound work ethic, a sense of responsibility, and a desire to serve.
I wonder whether we are training our youth in this direction, or whether our institutions of higher learning consider the acquisition of values and good character to be extra-curricular. When I led the KwaZulu Government, we created an additional subject to be taught at school level, called Good Citizenship. It taught the values of social responsibility; Ubuntu botho. Effectively, we pointed out the responsibilities which come with rights.
A great deal of emphasis is placed on human rights in a democratic South Africa, and that is a good thing. We want our youth growing up with a healthy respect for the rights of others, as well as an understanding of their own rights. Unfortunately, however, there are many rights that remain paper rights for many of our people.
Children living in impoverished rural communities have a right to education. But the quality of education they receive and the conditions in which they receive it are not on par with their peers in more affluent suburbs, who enjoy the same right.
The only way for us to transform the rights enshrined in our Constitution into rights enjoyed equally by all our people, is through improved service delivery. And the only way to improve service delivery, is to improve the resources and the people behind service delivery.
To me, the most significant things we can do to create a future of increased service delivery, is to stop corruption and start getting the right people into government positions. That means training up a generation of youth who can enter the civil service with the right qualifications and the right character.
We need to find innovative ways to turn the next generation against corruption. Right now, what they are seeing is leaders abusing power and getting away with it. That sets a terrible precedent. Particularly in this climate of economic hardship and high unemployment, we cannot afford to model corruption to our youth. They have been raised to believe that South Africa owes them jobs, houses, cars and fulfilment. When life doesn’t deliver, the worst thing they can see is immoral people prospering.
We need a generation of youth who understand that nothing comes easy, everything requires effort, rights cannot be separated from responsibilities, corruption destroys lives, and fulfilment comes through service. We, the leaders of this generation, have a responsibility to create the space for these ideas to prosper. That means doing the right thing.
Ultimately, good leadership will create the resources and administration South Africa needs for service delivery to improve. But it will also place South Africa on a different trajectory, so that years from now we will look back on our progress and say that we are closer to the future we dreamt of. Good leadership will secure that future.
There is, therefore, nothing South Africa needs more at this significant juncture, than the rise of good leaders.
I thank you.