The good, the bad and the ugly of the ANC
Those who support the ANC and are willing to give it another 25 years to ruin or rule SA were once again subjected to emotional abuse this past week. The ANC is indeed like a tale of two very different cities.
The week started with the excellence of Gauteng MEC Panyaza Lesufi, who launched a new era of access to education despite geographical origins, and his industrious responsiveness in rising to the occasion on the safety of learners at our schools. This MEC is an example of what a real public servant should be, both in words and deeds. He is someone who fills one with hope that the ANC should not be written off yet.
The week, however, ended in the utter shamefulness of another Gauteng MEC, Faith Mazibuko, who demonstrated totally unacceptable conduct for a public official. The condescending nature of politicians towards hard-working civil servants shocked those who harbour hope for our public service. The racist undertone that suggests that some South Africans are less worthy of opportunities in the public sector leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
Mazibuko conjures up images of an ANC desperate to cling to power and ready to flout the separation of party and state in the most brazen way. What does a voter do when faced with the two ANCs that we have seen this week? What does a battered spouse do when the wife beater who bruised her yesterday arrives with a bunch of roses the next day all sorry and remorseful?
The truth of the matter is that many of our politicians do things for show and miss the point of being true civil servants, whose main preoccupation must be to serve the people. It would be very dishonest to pretend that Mazibuko is such a terrible exception when in fact she is more the norm if the horror stories told about service at police stations, public health institutions or even schools are anything to go by. It is sad when an MEC such as Lesufi has to stand out like a sore thumb. Something that is supposed to be a norm has become an exception. We are forced to praise a fish for swimming.
The building of the capacity of the state to lift the standard of living of our people has to overcome various obstacles, chief among which is the over-politicisation of the public service. It is clear from the interaction of the MEC with her staff that she has no shame in making a direct link between spending, misspending or under-spending public funds and the prospects of the ANC as a party holding onto power. This shameless refusal to separate the party and the state is at the root of all corruption. God knows what else this MEC has been up to in the past five years when she has no problems declaring in front of the accounting officer and the chief financial officer that "I want to use this to campaign and win elections".
It is sadly the norm that at this time of the year government money will be used to show the incumbent in a good light. It is understandable that a governing party must deliver on its manifesto promises. It is a different matter when at the eleventh hour, taxpayers' money is used to fool the public into believing that there was service delivery when there was not.
The second hurdle, which you may have thought was buried with Verwoerd, is narrowing opportunities in the civil service through racial discrimination. If the MEC is to be believed, she is the exception because she has "empowered" white and Indian women in the department. This should not come as a shock but as a reality check that we have an obstacle of racism in the public service.
Finally, on the big question of integrity in the public service, how many Faith Mazibukos are lurking in our cabinet? How long will we need to turn them into the Lesufis who inspire a sense of confidence and integrity? And what kind of government do we need in place after May 8 to remove these obstacles? Can any of the political parties achieve this or is it time we pray for a coalition government to make sure the politicians hold each other accountable? Should citizens think seriously about splitting their votes to make sure such a reality comes into being? You be the judge.
• Tabane is the author of Let's Talk Frankly, a communications expert and a TV talk-show host