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Wed May 25 07:21:41 SAST 2016

Public servants' only business should be to serve the people

Editorial | 11 December, 2012 00:01

COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi always sticks his neck out and speaks truth to power.

Yesterday, he struck a raw nerve when he called on the government to do away with the policy that allows civil servants to do business with the state.

He said it was not enough for public servants to declare their interests.

"There has to be a zero-tolerance approach," Vavi said.

Quoting figures from the Special Investigating Unit, Vavi said 360 cases of conflict of interest, valued at R3.5-billion, were being investigated.

He said civil servants must either work for the government or go into business - they could not do both.

"We must change the mindset of those running our public bodies and re-establish a culture of public service under which public representatives either serve the people honestly and efficiently, or resign and make way for others who will do so," he said.

We agree with Vavi that there has to be a crackdown on private businesses that collaborate in the misappropriation of public funds.

''We must never forget that, for every public official who accepts a bribe, there is a business person who gives it.''

While it is easy to target public servants, the rot starts from the top.

A number of senior politicians have been found to be running businesses, using relatives, and they continue to take in vast sums of money from the state.

As long as we tolerate such business practices by those elected to lead us the war against corruption will be difficult to win.

President Jacob Zuma and his cabinet should lead by example.

Vavi hit the nail on the head when he asked why ministers accused of serious offences do not follow their consciences and voluntarily resign while the charges are investigated.

Instead, officials hold onto their posts, regardless of the charges they face.


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