The preamble to the Constitution sets out succinctly the goals that public leaders should strive to achieve. They include the need:
- to heal the divisions of the past and establish a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights; and
- to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.
To achieve these goals government is required to adhere to the following fundamental values:
- Human dignity, the achievement of equality and the advancement of human rights and freedoms;
- Non-racism and non-sexism;
- Supremacy of the Constitution and the rule of law;
- Universal adult suffrage, a national common voters roll, regular elections and a multiparty system of democratic government to ensure openness, accountability and responsiveness.
In providing good public leadership, government is also required to respect, protect and fulfil the rights in the Bill of Rights. Most of these rights - such as equality, human dignity and life - must be guaranteed by the state with immediate effect. Others are progressive rights that the state must strive to provide through the adoption of legislation and other measures within its available resources. They include housing, health care, water and social security.
These constitutional provisions pretty well define the task of government.
The question is: how are our public leaders doing?
When it comes to healing "the divisions of the past" we made a good start under President Mandela. He certainly worked successfully to promote reconciliation and to build a new multi-racial nation. We also witnessed a heartening resurgence of national unity and reconciliation during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. However, since then, the situation has deteriorated rapidly as a result of the aggressive implementation of race-based measures that are aimed against minorities in general and whites in particular.
We have done quite well in establishing "a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights". We have independent courts that have consistently upheld the rights of citizens. We will soon be holding our fifth free and fair national election. Parliament functions on democratic lines - although most MPs - because of the proportional representation system - are in practice accountable to their political party bosses rather than to the electorate.
The government’s mandate "to improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person" covers most of the rest of its responsibilities. These include its responsibility to protect the lives and property of citizens; to ensure sound economic growth with employment for all; education, health, social and municipal services.
Last week the government provided its own assessment of its performance in the "20 Year Review" which was published conveniently two months before our national elections. The Review provides evidence in support of the ANC’s contention that "South Africa has a good story to tell". Indeed, in many areas government does have a good story to tell regarding the manner in which it has improved the quality of life of its citizens.
- During the past 20 years, government at various levels has built 2.8 million houses and has delivered almost 900 000 serviced sites. This has provided housing and fixed assets to almost 25% of the population.
- The number of people qualifying for social assistance programmes has increased from 2.7 million in 1994 to more than 16 million people today. Social grants have played a key role in reducing absolute poverty in South Africa.
- Matric pass rates have increased from 61 percent in 2009 to 78 percent in 2013. The number of university passes increased from 70 000 to 128 000 between 2002 and 2012.
- During the past 20 years the government has completed more than 1 500 health infrastructure projects. Life expectation has improved from 50 years for males in 2002 to 56.8 years in 2012. For females it has improved from 55.2 to 60.5 during the same period.
- The number people receiving anti-retroviral therapy has increased from 47 500 in 2004 to 1.79 million in 2011. This has helped to reduce HIV deaths from 300 000 to 270 000 between 2010 and 2011.
- The murder rate has declined from 66/100 000 in 1994 to 31.1/100 000 in 2013. Success has also been achieved in reducing other serious crimes - such as car theft and burglary.
The government should be commended for these achievements.
Desnieteenstaande stem die goedgunstige beeld wat in die 20 Jaar-oorsig uiteengesit word, nie ooreen met die nasionale en internasionale indrukke betreffende die ontwikkelings in Suid-Afrika nie.
Die Oorsig omseil mislukkings - of blameer dit op die nalatenskap van apartheid. Laasgenoemde is ’n maklike benadering omdat dit hoogs onwaarskynlik is dat enige iemand enige kritiek van apartheid sal bevraagteken.
Dit beweer byvoorbeeld dat "die onderwysstelsel onder apartheid doelbewus en uitdruklik ten doel gehad het om te verseker dat Afrikane die bron van ongeskoolde arbeid vir die ekonomie bly". Dit haal ’n aanmerking buite konteks aan, wat in 1956 gemaak is deur Eerste Minister Verwoerd, naamlik dat "daar geen plek bó die vlak van sekere vorms van arbeid is vir swart mense in die Europese gemeenskap nie." Ek wil nie wat hy gesê het goedpraat nie. Die punt is egter dat sy stelling nie die ware prentjie ten opsigte van onderwys bied nie.
Die skrywers van die Oorsig het die De Lange-kommissie heeltemal geïgnoreer, wat in die vroeë 80s aanbeveel het dat alle Suid-Afrikaners - swart en wit - dieselfde leerplan moet volg en aan dieselfde standaard gemeet moet word. Hulle het ook die feit ignoreer dat die aantal swart Suid-Afrikaners wat matriek geslaag het, toegeneem het van minder as 15 000 in 1980 na meer as 210 000 in 1994 - ten spyte van die wydverspreide ontwrigting van onderwys gedurende hierdie tydperk. Ironies genoeg het baie ANC-leiers aan universiteite gegradueer wat deur ’n stelsel gestig is wat volgens hulle "ten doel gehad het om te verseker dat Afrikane die bron van ongeskoolde arbeid bly".