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Are we winning the war to instil accountability?

In recent years South Africa has experienced a perilous drought: we have also experienced a drought in terms of leadership accountability from some of our leaders and individuals in key positions.

War is often a protracted process – the Reconquista, campaigns led by Christian states in medieval Spain and Portugal to recapture territory from the moors lasted for 774 years. Bringing leaders to book, and instilling a national culture of accountability takes time. However, South Africa is making some significant inroads in this regard; South Africa is winning some battles in the war to instil a culture of accountability.

The Esidemeni ruling provides some blue sky. While money can never compensate for the loss of life, justice seems to have been served to some extent with the awarding of R1.2million to families affected by the tragedy. The fact that Provincial Government has accepted responsibly that that things went horribly wrong for 144 psychiatric patients under its watch must provide the affected families with some closure.

It is also significant that Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke has accused former Gauteng MEC Qedani Mahlangu, former head of department Dr Tiego Selebano and the former head of mental health services Dr Makgabo Manamela guilty of feigning ignorance of how bad the project was. The message is very clear that if you are a leader, you are ultimately accountable for everything that happens under your watch.

Mahlangu will appear before the ANC integrity committee. Some may have expected harsher sanctions, including sanctions against the other two leaders.

The release of the findings of the Farlam Commission into the 2012 Marikana massacre, will hopefully bring some comfort to the families affected by this tragedy. Nine senior police officers and security guards have been charged with a variety of charges including murder, attempted murder and defeating the ends of justice. It is imperative that no-one is seen to be above the law; law enforcers like everyone else need to be accountable for their actions.

The Guptas may hold the accolade for being South Africa’s most loathed family for their alleged State capture. Authorities in India, Canada and South Africa are cracking down on the family. This very complex case may take years to bring to book. What is critical is that there is a united effort to make the Guptas accountable for their actions.

Many South Africans have their own wish list of leaders and individuals whom they would like to see been made to account for their actions.

I am very encouraged by a number of very recent positive developments including the announcement of a governance probe at SARS, Group Forensic and Investigation Services (GFIS) investigations into allegations of employees leasing some Johannesburg Property Company properties to foreigners and the illegal collection of rent, and the Inquiry into the collapse of the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation.

One can either speak about “opening a can of worms,” or of implementing positive initiatives to eradicate corruption, poor governance, and create a culture of accountability and delivery. I support the latter.

As we ponder about efforts to inculcate a culture of leadership accountability in South Africa, I am reminded of a very inspiring John Kotter quote: “Great leadership does not mean running away from reality. Sometimes the hard truths might just demoralise the company, but at other times sharing difficulties can inspire people to take action that will make the situation better.”

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