This Freedom Month, take back your pride!
Thirty years ago, the world watched as former President Nelson Mandela retook his place in society after 27 years in prison. After decades of division, this iconic freedom fighter became our nation’s symbol of hope in a time of uncertainty and turmoil.
While doomsayers predicted financial collapse and bloodshed, they were proven wrong. We inspired the world with our ability to unite, adapt and transform.
Four years later, South Africa again made global headlines on 27 April 1994 when our first democratic elections took place freely and fairly. Yet as we celebrate these historic elections this Freedom Month, we have to ask if the holistic liberation of our people has indeed been delivered, or if economic freedom and personal empowerment have been tainted by the glory and wealth seekers in the ranks of the public service.
When Madiba delivered his iconic speech on the day of his release, he said: “I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.”
He understood the culture of public service: that the men and women who are in the employ of government have one overarching responsibility – putting the people first.
While the public service has played a crucial role in ensuring that government services reach the millions of people who were sidelined prior to 1994, our reputation has been marred by corruption and greed.
The immoral, illegal and self- serving behaviour of a small percentage of people in government’s employ – aided and abetted by family, friends and other collaborators in the private sector and civil society – has damaged its credibility and impaired the reputation of the civil service.
These people have negated the great good done by the public service and have eroded our morale. They have diminished the pride of responsibility we take in living by the light of the torch Madiba handed to us for passing on to future generations.
This Freedom Month, let us commit to shaking off the negativity that has crept into various parts of the public service and let us embrace the action government has begun to take against corruption in the public and private sectors as part of growing an ethical and prosperous South Africa.
Let us regroup as guardians and champions of the public interest and of public resources. The nation’s confidence in government depends on the trust people have in each of us as individual public servants. Let us earn and retain that trust by doing the right thing at all times. The needs and aspiration of the people of South Africa are in our hands!