Avishkar Govender
Avishkar Govender

Will they swear an oath of honesty?

I have since August 2005 had to climb into the open sewer of personality politics — at first without public demonstration, and then latterly, since August 2007, with overt and public demonstration — for the express purpose of sensitising community leaders about ethical leadership and honest corporate and public governance.

Perhaps it was my egomania which dictated that it was not enough for me simply to prove that Citizens’ Academies could exist as WNPCs, such that I had to actually demonstrate what I meant when I said “Corruption-Free Politics”. This meant taking on and taking down tender wallahs and crooked community leaders, however, it would behove all who intend blowing whistles in future, to bear in mind that the responses from the accused were and will always be denial and counter-accusation.

Thankfully having put that indaba to rest — by securing justice for the people who had been offended by the chicanery — I have been able to climb back out of the gutter of splastic politics, hopefully for good.

Cast your mind to any and all incidents of whistle-blowing and public corruption allegations, has anyone ever owned up right away and having thus admitted, simply made amends and submitted to criminal rehabilitation such that the public received swift justice in respect of the corruption? No, I can’t think of any instances either.

In fact what seems to happen is that when leaders are fingered for unethical conduct they obfuscate and deny, they counter-accuse and lie. What we see is that the simple facts of official impropriety become interwoven with personal mudslinging and conspiracy theories. The taxpayers, already funding these circuses, are then left to watch the charades play out with a best-case scenario resulting in the powerful criminal serving a minimal sentence or paying a negligible fine before returning to public life, leadership, responsibility and power.

If I was a politician in South Africa and my rivals and the contenders for my office were corrupt and guilty of impropriety, you can be sure as sunshine that I would remind the voters at every turn that I was a better choice, because in and among other things, I was honest and not corrupt. In fact I’m not sure that I would even agree to practise the same profession as people whom had an inferior standard of ethical leadership, as this would devalue the profession as well as infringe on my ability and impinge on my capacity to earn a living from the conduct of that profession.

Luckily for me, I am not contesting the keys to Genadendal against people of such a lower ethical standard. In respect of which it occurred to me that in order to achieve ethical leadership we have but to set down an oath of office which over and above the oaths take by parliamentarians, ministers and the presidents, should provide some guarantee to the voters of the integrity of the leadership on offer.

I set forth hereunder a text of such an oath of honesty for public officials and ask for comments and subscriptions by affirmations to the same. Oh, and it wouldn’t hurt if every public official in South Africa took this oath as well.

That I, (insert politician’s name) do hereby swear and attest on this (insert date) day of (insert month) of the year (insert year) at (insert name of place), that in the course of executing the responsibilities of my public office that:

  1. I will never violate the creed of office and/or the oath of office taken at the time of my acceptance of such public office.
  2. I will never violate the laws, rules and regulations pertaining to the conduct of persons holding such public office.
  3. I will never in any manner undermine, obfuscate or attempt to defeat in any manner, or by any mode, the course of justice and the rule of law in the execution of the responsibilities of my public office and/or in the assurance of the ethical conduct of my office.
  4. I will never in any manner, mode or form seek to abuse or authorise and/or delegate the right, opportunity or propensity for such abuse of the power of my public office, to any other person(s), whether in the execution of the responsibilities of my public office or in any other matter whatsoever.
  5. I will never bear false witness or in any manner misrepresent by deliberate or inadvertent act or omission, the truth or situation as it is in indisputable fact.
  6. I will never, nor will any person acting for me or on my authority have any personally beneficial relationship of any sort with any person(s) directly or indirectly connected with providing services to the state.
  7. None of the revenue received as a result of any contracts, issued by the state, will ever benefit me or my associates (directly or indirectly) in a manner which could be construed to have contributed to having induced the public officials concerned to have awarded contracts to any service providers in the first instance.
  8. I will never, nor will any person acting for me or on my authority ever engage in any activity which would provide an advantage by association to any particular service provider, whether in the provision of services to the state or in the provision of services to state contractors.
  9. I will never, nor will any person acting for me or on my authority ever solicit a donation or benefit of any sort in exchange for policy, programme and/or position modifications and/or amendments in any respect or by any means.
  10. I will never allow my decision-making to be guided by anything other than the mandate given to me in terms of my public office, in terms of the will of the electorate, and in terms of the will of my constituents, without undue preference to any one constituent or group of constituents.

This I do hereby swear in the presence of (insert name of witness 1) and (insert name of witness 2) as witnesses.

Signed thus (insert signature).

(Annotate with seal of commissioner of oath or public notary).

The ten statements in this oath should close all possibility of dishonesty and corruption and ensure that should the public official commit a crime in terms of the laws, rules and regulations pertaining to such public office, that they would also face and be guilty of a charge of perjury.

Now call me old-fashioned but I don’t think that someone who is found guilty of a crime of unethical leadership as well as the crime of perjury is going to get much sympathy from their own party, let alone the public, such that we may finally see a time in the future where crooked public officials get censured, fired, prosecuted, sentenced and rehabilitated never to return to positions of power, in the public space.

I wonder how many of the four hundred current members of parliament will swear this oath?