Demand competent leaders, urges Ramphele
South Africans are not doing enough to force government to deliver, activist and academic Mamphela Ramphele has said.
Speaking ahead of a gathering of international management education experts hosted by Stellenbosch University, Ramphele said there were various ways citizens could ensure their taxes were spent properly.
Ramphele, who urged business schools to pay greater attention to educating managers and leaders in the public sector, was speaking ahead of the start of the 20th Ceeman Annual Conference today.
Ceeman is a global association of more than 200 management development institutions from 51 countries.
It is the first time the organisation is hosting its annual conference outside of Europe.
Asked about the option of withholding taxes she replied: “There are a whole range of options to citizens which they are not taking. Sannieshof is the municipality that demonstrated how you do that.”
She was referring to residents in the North West municipal district of Tswaing, who refused to pay rates and taxes in protest against poor service delivery.
Ramphele stopped short of giving their action her full endorsement.
The academic said another option open to the private sector was demanding the skills levy be used for its intended purpose.
“For the last decade, they’ve been paying 1% of payroll into a hole,” she said.
“We (are) short of skills, 800 000 skills … there are 600 000 graduates without jobs … instead of putting 1% in a hole, use that one percent to solve that problem.”
She said the reason for inaction was a culture of acquiescence from both private and corporate citizens.
Ramphele said some organisations were breaking the silence, although more critics were needed.
“I’m very excited to see the likes of Section 27, Equal Education and the Legal Resource Centre: civil society organisations that are standing up and saying ‘enough’!”
She said the constitutional provision of a professional, competent public service was being breached daily.
“The reason why it is possible for us to live with that violation is because you and I as ordinary citizens are not jumping up and down and saying: ‘Hey, where is the competency?’”
Ramphele singled out the National Youth Development Agency.
The auditor general found the NYDA had irregularly spent almost 70% of its budget.
She also targeted local government.
“When you have only 13 out of your two-hundred-and-something municipalities getting a clean audit, you really are in trouble … we need our taxes to be more efficiently utilised by more competent people.
That’s not rocket science, it’s possible.”
Ramphele said the failures of government were not as a result of the country lacking educated and talented managers.
“We are not using our best brains, our best energies, our best talents, because we are tolerating loyalty which is the driver to public sector employment these days both at national, provincial and at local authority level and that is why we are underperforming, big time.”
She blamed corporate citizens for shying away from criticising government.
“People are afraid of not being able to get government tenders, not being able to get that kind of access.”
Ramphele said the country’s black economic empowerment was distorted and corrupted.
“Broadening the base of participating in the economy, which was supposedly the foundation of BEE, has not been the focus; the focus has been on who owns what and the same people get the same benefits over and over again.”
Being critical did not mean people should not recognise what was working, Ramphele said.
“We have a great platform, whether it’s the Constitution or the demography of South Africa, the natural resources, the mineral resources – we’ve got a lot that is going for us.”
But she warned this could remain simply a potential and not be translated into reality.
“That reality depends on you and I insisting on the best leaders in both the public and private sector so that we can become this great country.”
Ramphele will also deliver the keynote address on the theme My Country and Myself: How Do We Transform? this evening.