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It is vital that our political leaders start to focus on value-based decisions as they lead SA into the future, writes Thabo Makgoba.
Easter is the cornerstone of the Christian faith – the resurrection of Christ is at the very heart of our faith. The miracle of the empty tomb is the make or break of the very system of belief and so we are called upon to reflect about what requires resurrection in our lives in our communities and in our nation.
The very question of what requires to be resurrected assumes the inherent goodness of human kind and the fact that basically all humanity is good and it is this goodness that we ought to always strive to find in one another even in the face of adversity. Easter is about dispelling hopelessness.
Amid our celebration of the liberation of our country, the question is about what requires the urgency of the two values of love and compassion in governance.
Perhaps considered in another way, have we become so afraid of sharing ourselves because of our socialisation, or because our inner world is also too fractured and needy, that we are afraid of opening it up for scrutiny?
Might these be the real underlying questions that our nation is asking but has taken a softer, more gentler way, lest we lose others?
Let me start with governance. This is about relationships. It is the way we administer our power or influence over others and systems.
Most importantly, governance is how we make decisions on how we assume the responsibility of providing leadership to others and the responsibilities of that leadership.
And so in the past few years this question has been bubbling under the surface as we scrutinise the kind of leaders who are steering our nation to its future.
In two exercises of seminal importance before the adoption of the national development plan, it has become clear that the question of leadership stands out as a key determinant of our future.
And it is here that I depart from the “technical” definitions of governance. Governance is navigated by our decisions and our decisions are navigated by our values.
Otherwise, why do we have values? Certainly not to check a proverbial box, but rather to become the spiritual criteria for every decision everyone makes every day.
So governance becomes another application, perhaps one of our most critical applications, of value-based decision-making.
Governance has to do with how we exercise power, not lord it over others. Governance is how we lead, not how we order.
And so the question remains stubborn even as we celebrate 20 years of achievements.
Value-based decision-making guides governance for those who have the authority to make decisions.
We should be good stewards, show mercy and yearn for justice. So love and compassion in governance are two of the values for making decisions that should guide leadership or management.
Viewed from a value-based framework, it compels me to locate governance within a framework that sees the urgency of seeing governance not as manipulating pawns but acting to provide humanity with a contextual framework in how to build relationships of trust with others.
It compels me to see the urgency of exercising this with a degree of urgency for it’s not systems that I am governing but the communities we share responsibility for.
Corporate governance is no different. Governance is as much about human guidance as it is about institutional guidance. It is an expression of the care for which we have responsibility for… and this is too what I long for as we reflect on the 20 years of having the power to determine our own future through the kind of leaders we have put in charge.
Yesterday, on holy Saturday, we held an inter-religious walk of witness to lament our silence in the face of values being trampled in our country but also to commit to speaking out and acting as inter-religious people in ensuring values of accountability by all in our country. We are all loving and compassionate beings but we mostly want these from ourselves and not the others.
As we reflect on the good and the bad over the past 20 years, we have an enormous opportunity to create a renaissance of responsibility.
This is why I believe that the reflection on our freedom can be historic.
The world media should say that when South Africa celebrated 20 years of its freedom, it reminded itself of the important gap in its national conversations about the importance of governance in leading with value-based decisions.
While conversation is beginning to get louder, we have seen so many speaking out about the slippery slope that our country is sliding down, especially on the issue over worsening governance, whether be it at the SABC or over the Nkandla affair.
All one has to do is step back far enough to ask: what is missing in the national dialogue about governance? And then the challenge that stares us in the face after 20 years becomes clear.
In my frequent discussions with political, business, education, civic, social society or church leaders, I’ve tried a new strategy.
As we talk about issues of national importance, I try as early in the conversation as possible to weave in the question: what national values should guide this discussion?
Why? Well communication is not really about writing and speaking, communication is about people listening. We are never going to change behaviour, choices or decisions unless our communities are listening.
How do we get our core communities to listen?
The most effective experience I’ve had is to ask questions. Questions don’t speak to the ears but the ego.
And when the ego hears a question, it forces the psyche to listen. Let me share with you an example.
Recently, in supporting the public protector, who investigated poor judgment in governance as it related to the presidency, I posed these questions:
* Putting aside all of the political, social and moral conversations and judgments that have taken place inside and outside the country, what can we as a society in South Africa learn from the public protector’s courage?
* How has the public protector’s report helped ring a bell on the importance of our national values?
* Since our values should guide every decision made by our government leaders, and our historic constitution clearly articulates our national values… what can our government leaders learn from the flawed decisions that apparently didn’t consider our national values?
At the core of these questions is how we can challenge those in power and governance by pointing them to the resurrection of our national values, their institutional values and even their personal values.
How can they serve with these values in mind and use them to transform all into being loving and compassionate interacting and interdependent communities sharing common interests, common goals and shared value?
How can they put themselves into the shoes of those on the receiving end of their governing?
On the other hand, as citizens do we have enough courage to demand this resurrection of values. Do we have the determination to spread these values once they are resurrected?
In a sense, we need not reinvent the wheel. In our indigenous knowledge systems, ubuntu stands out as one phenomenon that we should seek to resurrect both this Eastertide and as we prepare to take a moment to celebrate freedom. We need a new view of the world and new view of ourselves.
The muting of the values that underpin ubuntu is destroying people and communities that should be celebrating freedom.
I hope that as we mark Freedom Day next Sunday, it will force us into a deeper reflection as a free people. I pray that we transcend mere lamentations and seek common action and solutions.
Now, when we are reminded of the miracle of the resurrection of our Lord I pray that we resurrect all that is good about the new South Africa and dispel all darkness for the sake of those who sacrificed so that we are free.
Wishing you and your loved ones a happy Easter.
*Makgoba is Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town
** The views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Independent Newspapers.