Durban - Northern Cape Premier Dr. Zamani Saul’s decision to buy 27 new ambulances instead of new luxury vehicles for his MECs should inspire competition amongst leaders to do better for their communities.
This was the view of political analyst Ralph Mathekga who described Saul’s approach to running the Northern Cape as a “people centred”
Mathekga said although Saul’s promises and decisions were strange and might irk some of his comrades within the ANC they should be encouraged as they were positive a step.
“I have to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, but the problem with these things is that you can look good with the media and be praised, but it makes your life difficult with your comrades.
“He has volunteered to have a difficult life because he’s confronted with a culture of government that is driven by the priorities of the service provider for cars and all sorts of things that need to be bought,” Mathekga said.
He said that despite what looks like good intentions it was set to become tougher for Saul because he was confronting an entrenched culture where politicians could be accused of a variety of things and it was not a way to build support within the ANC’s structures.
“If he can sustain this he will be a breath of fresh air and when people like this emerge within our society, when they don’t demonstrate any malfeasance or sinister motives, we should praise them.
“This is a guy who wants to lead by example and South Africans should stand behind him,” Mathekga said.
In an age of rampant self indulgence by politicians tasked with managing the public purse Mathekga said that politicians in South Africa have been “out competing” each other in wrongdoing, from state capture, Bosasa and the Guptas.
"But, here now emerges a man who wants to set an example and the public should rally behind him," he said.
In an age where senior government leaders are chauffeur driven, live in the lap of luxury and enjoy the protection of highly trained security detail, Mathekga said South Africa’s politicians should consider putting the interests of their electorate ahead of personal interest. It is not unheard of for politicians to place the electorate first
According to the Mail and Guardian Swedish politicians do not enjoy any special perks such as officials cars or private drivers and instead travel around in crowded buses and trains “just like the citizens they represent” while Swedish councillors do not have a salary nor do they have an office, instead working from home.
It is an almost similar story in The Netherlands where, according to Forbes, the northwest European nation’s Prime Minister Mark Rutte regularly cycles to his meetings, a far cry from the blue lights and wailing sirens that accompany the posh, celebrity like, grand entrances of South African ministers and MECs.
Former Uruguayan president Jose Mujica, who served as the South American country’s 40th president between 2010 and 2015, is another politician who opted for a simpler lifestyle donating 90 percent of his earnings ($12 000) to charity, while driving a modest 1987 Volkswagen Beetle and living in a two bedroom farm house.
“Our politicians are in a race to the bottom, out competing each other in wrongdoing and now here’s a chap who’s pledged to attempt something different by being a Mr Goody Two Shoes and what if another politician looks at this and thinks let me do even better than this guy?
“It will create a culture of competing to do better to serve the people who vote for them better and it will lead us to a good place as a society, so let us encourage it and get other politicians buying into this way of doing things,” said Mathekga.