Posted on: April 21, 2011 Posted by: Diane Swarts Comments: 0

Local government should demonstrate health, safety, environment, sustainability, governance and compliance ethics, if only to discourage business imitation of government ethics.

South African sheq practitioners should examine and anticipate the consequences for sheq culture, of government and state governance collapse, and consider corporate cultural options, at the risk of losing gains made under a recent democratic government ethic.

Current South African local, provincial and traditional government failures are largely due to poor governance, the very theme that co-operative governance and traditional affairs minister Sicelo Shiceka has been appointed guardian of for several years.

Governance dilemmas are making huge impacts on public, labour and business culture, and would affect business workplace health, safety, environment, quality, and sustainability practice, ethic and culture in many direct and even more indirect ways.

Waste and traffic risk governance

Private hospitals could not be inspired or coerced to follow medical waste rules, while public health care waste is ‘managed’ by the likes of Wasteman, whose convenient contractor had hidden body parts in old quarries and mine shafts.

Waste workers could not be expected to develop their occupational sheq programmes while some service utility managers are playing self enrichment games.

I thank Johannesburg waste collection workers for drawing citizens’ attention to possible ongoing corruption and other problems at Pikitup, and I bear the consequences of their extended strike in solidarity with their stated aim, even knowing that industrial action could be a rather blunt tool in the hands of some unionists.

Fleet operators could not be inspired or coerced to follow transport legislation and codes, while the likes of former Ekurhuleni metro police chief Robert McBride showcase every legal and some of the illegal opportunities to struggle for their self assumed right to run reputedly lucrative state authorities.

Culture is a sheq backbone

Public health, safety and environment risk tolerance levels are set by public culture, expressed in law, and exercised by state agencies. When state agencies collapse under poor governance, they drag law and culture down to public acceptance of ever larger ‘system losses’.

South African minister Sicelo Shiceka is a prime example of planning, governance and service failure. Since local and provincial service and governance is his portfolio, his failure borders on treason, and should incur stripping of his many public positions.

Shiceka had helped to lead South Africa’s local and provincial government from Apartheid’s moral and political dilemmas, to a brief few years of democratic accountability, then into years of governance and service shambles.

Shiceka was deputy chair on the National Executive Committee’s sub committee on Legislation and Governance, with jurisdiction over public administration, in 2007.

His recent fat cat lifestyle and positions in authorities presiding over reputedly lucrative government roles in land reform, defence, and soccer, is at the core of an emerging South African public health, safety, environment, quality, governance and culture crisis.

Government versus governance

Shiceka’s designations and functions relate directly to governance in the sense intended by the King Commission on Corporate (and public) Governance, synonymous with the ideals of continued improvement towards integrity and sustainability. Local and provincial government had instead become synonymous with continuous decline and collapse.

Shiceka’s minsterial designations also relate to co-operation between the three government levels, over which he presided as minister since 2008, with integration of the unofficial but widely recognised civil society function of traditional leaders also in his hands.

Traditional cultural ethic

South African amakhosi (traditional leaders) should express concern at having some co-operative functions between government and their own cultural and ethical roles, placed in the hands of a man who had failed at using his many connections to ensure local and provincial service delivery.

Traditional leaders are by their nature and calling familiar with the King Code (no pun intended), and with local governance. They may find better forums for their cultural and environmental roles in local governments, than at national level.

The unfortunate governance ministry seems almost to have been created for Shiceka personally.

Civic service ethic is all but crushed under the leaden weight of local government nepotism, incompetence, faction squabbles, corruption and fraud. These burdens together weigh down on health, safety and environment like the bum of a heavyweight speed trap cop, together with her flashy and fully imported private car.

Invisible provincial sheq governance

Provincial government is equally bereft of accountability and governance ethic, not entirely Shiceka’s doing. Pre-democratic provincial governments were likewise ‘filing cabinets’ for second tier politicians and bureaucrats, some of whom had perfected the art of mediocrity, invisibility, and fiddling to advance vested interests.

Shiceka was MEC for Development Planning and Local Government in 1994 to 1999, and could be blamed for allowing developers to make municipal councils their rubber stamps.

There are few internal health, safety, environment, quality and governance structures in local and provincial corridors. HSE committees are grudgingly initiated and poorly maintained.

In public hospitals, run dry by provincial appointees, occupational health and safety practice should be alive and well, but public hospitals have some of the worse safety, OH and environmental impact records among state institutions, even compared to court buildings closed by Labour inspectors.

Recent talk of closing down provincial governments and transferring their nefarious functions to metros and the state is a good sign. If this was at Shiceka’s instigation, he should be credited, but he is probably too populist to force hordes of mid tier supporters into meaningful service.

Provincial enviro legislation proliferation

Provincial health, environment and waste management legislation, regulation, consulting and licensing had burgeoned, while transparency, civil co-operation, capacity, accountability and inter-government co-operation remain governance theory, not practice.

Shiceka once fought the kind of meticulous governance that accepts public services as being reserved to an elite minority. Now he presides over poor health, safety and environment services, maintenance ‘savings’, and ever raising license fees and public charges for paying well connected bureaucratic fat cats.

Public health shambles

Public values like improving health, safety and environmental impact shrivel in the face of the dire necessity to pay exploitative medical insurance and avoid public hospitalisation.

National health insurance is another expensive health ‘solution’ to the provincial collapse, ready to serve selected board members.

Provincial road safety dilemma

Self serving provincial officials and their legal and IT consultants populate boards of semi state agencies like the SA National Roads Agency Limited (Sanral).

Road safety is demoted to a secondary consideration in the struggle to avoid traffic queues at uncoordinated and unmanned intersections, trapping, and payment enforcement road blocks, although ethical business operators appreciate the odd roadworthy blitzes that incidentally improves road safety.

SA governance dilemma

South African local government suffered dilemmas under Apartheid, as well connected communist and labour unionist Sicelo Shiceka argued with some academic flourish in a paper presented to the SA Local Government Association (SALGA) in the 1980s.

He had concluded on the ‘dilemma of [Apartheid era] local government having accountability but no political authority’, and documented aspects of a transition to democracy in the days of Regional Services Councils.

Nationalist Party leaders regarded him as a presentable communist with whom they ‘could walk a long way’. ANC leaders thought the same, and his career advanced in leaps and bounds, including local government reform.

Today, minister Sicheka is the very image of authority in the service of a select few. The democratic solution to public service problems is proving to be undemocratic, like the communist East came to resemble royal and aristocratic rule.

South Africa is entering a post democratic socialist culture.

Shiceka’s portfolio

Sicelo Shiceka, Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, was Minister of Provincial and Local Government since 2008, member of the ANC Political Committee since 2007, and of Government’s Land and Environmental Affairs select committee, and of the Joint Stand Committee on Defence, and of the Public Services Committee.

He was a director of the 2010 Fifa World Cup Local Organising Committee, deputy chair on the NEC Legislation and Governance sub committee for public administration in 2007, chair of Constitutional Development and Administration of the National Council of Provinces, chair of the Select Committee on Local Government in 2004

Shiceka was deputy chair and provincial exec member of the SACP in Johannesburg in 1991, and Cosatu provincial secretary in 1992.

His ‘Masters degree in Political Economy from UFS’ is disputed by UFS. He is cited on a government website as having a Diploma in Labour Relations and a private college diploma in Economics.

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