30 May, 2014


By Dumisile Masuku
A fine line that distinguishes accountability from responsibility in a democratic country like South Africa. 

Accountability is when every decision you make as a public figure that occupies a high portfolio that affects the lives of ordinary citizens is not only important but is absolutely critical.

It is rather sad to learn that 20 years into democracy, the importance of accountability has been a dwindling phenomenon from the high class rippling down to the lower class. 

This makes it hard to determine who must take the blame. Is it the government or the people themselves who have elected that government?

The aftermath of the 2014 general elections in South Africa has once again granted the ANC the power to remain the ruling party despite previous outcries about service delivery and corruption.

“I feel that the president has failed to be accountable to his actions in this country because he has remained president even though he has outstanding fraud cases, and the ANC has only made empty promises and it has been unable to deliver”, says Lethuxolo Nxumalo.

When President Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma announced his new cabinet soon after his official inauguration at the union buildings in Pretoria, the whole nation waited in anticipation of the fate of the Ministers; those who were unexpectedly ousted as well as those who would be embarking on a journey to drive Zuma’s second term of leadership.

Therefore, the big question that one may cautiously ask is who is to be held accountable for the fact that Angie Motsekga maintained her post even though according to most commentators, she did not deserve to return to parliament. 

Is it the government itself, or the society for singing Motshekga’s praises after the slight improvement of the matric pass rate in 2013.

This is despite a series of textbooks sagas that have engulfed the Minister since her tenure in office.

The public has expressed dissatisfaction against Motshekga because the blunders which have occurred in the Education Department under her reign were completely intolerable and have compromised the dignity of education in South Africa.

However, there are those who feel that despite some of the ‘loose strings’ from the South African government, there are some areas whereby the country can still be proud of. 

“Yes the government is still not where it is supposed to be but gradually it is going there, an issue of accountability is not an easy matter hence the society also needs to play a role in order to meet the government halfway”, added Mbongwa Nxumalo.

Dr Ramphela Ramphele, has recently condemned the IEC chairwoman Pansy Tlakula’s failure to act accountable, after a forensic investigation revealed that an IEC building sitting in Pretoria-was not found to have undergone a process that was fair, transparent, nor cost-effective.  It found that Tlakula did not give guidance or formally inform various people about what was expected of them in the process.

Moreover Ramphele criticized the president himself for failing to lead by example, describing his actions as a culture of impunity that ensured he did not have to be accountable for costly security upgrades to his private Nkandla homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.

A review into the past few years reveals that the current state of the South African democratic landscape in terms of accountability became more prevalent since President Jacob Zuma came into power. 

A radical question that one may opt to ask is that did former president Thabo Mbeki leave an open fissure prior his departure that needed to be dealt with first?

Or perhaps, Zuma’s starting point as president was completely driven by wrong motives and a ruptured agenda which might have emerged from his dark past with tycoon Shabir Shaik?

In 2010, soon after Zuma became president, the country has seen Zuma’s nephew Khulubuse Zuma accumulate wealth through tenders in mines that were worth millions, through unaccountable processes. 

Thus the phenomena of irregular tenders has continued to form an unfavourable trend and is still questionable in the country.

“Tenders are still granted to certain individuals who have not undergone the rightful process, whereas those who deserve the opportunity are not recognised”, says Thamsanqa Dlamini. 

He added that the government still has a long way to go because so far it has set an image that is corrupt, not to mention unaccountable.

Therefore, with all that has been said and done, it is hard to insinuate that there is ever going to be any change in terms of the government finally gaining the conscious to take full ownership when it comes to accountability towards the society. 
This is merely because the society itself has a role to play, because at the end of the day those who are in power do not end up there on their own, they are elected by a people who have to entrust them with the weighty job governance.

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