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Moral regeneration as a strategy for change in the Public sector

I was invited to speak to you about the subject of moral regeneration as a
strategy for change in the Public sector. The subject itself raises a number
of important questions o me which are not to be ignored if we are serious
about fnding ways of bringing sustainable normalcy to the Public sector in
this country. I think that it is important at the onset to acknowledge the
urgency of such a conversation but also to concede to the many
challenges that we are faced with as we strive to build an accountable
moral and ethical public sector.
The statistics of various human sciences studies indicate that an
unprecedented amount of money and resources are invested in the
training and equipping of public servants yet the question remains why
do these investments not yield the desired results! To speak about moral
regeneration in relation to the public sector begs that we deal with the
many misconceptions about the notion of moral regeneration. The chief
misconception about moral regeneration is that the subject in question is
understood as some drug which can be dispensed to societies and
societies will miraculously be rejuvenated and all will be well. I need to
state it clearly here and now that the notion of moral regeneration is not to
be perceived as some miraculous drug but that at its heart it calls for
those who want to strive for it to acknowledge the conte"t in which such
calls for moral regeneration are made. This suggests that we need to look
at our current conte"t with all honesty. #ooking at this conte"t forces us at
the same time to engage with the histories that brought us to the current
#et me brie$y get to the notions of morality and ethics. The notions %thics
and morality are usually closely associated with religion whether this is
good or bad is another matter all together. &u'ce to say that because
religion has become an ever(pervasive phenomenon it is no wonder that
our ethos and mores have received wide religious justifcation. %thics can
be defned as the study of what is right or wrong in conduct. It is the
general theory of )onduct and considers the actions of human beings with
reference to their rightness or wrongness their tendency to good or to
evil. The concept ethics is derived from the *reek word ethos which
means character and is related to custom or habit.
+orality or mores refers to the norms and values which are designed to
give form to a particular community or society. The two concepts are
usually confused to mean the same thing. Properly understood the word
ethics refers to the systematic study whereas the word morals refer to a
behaviour pattern. In this sense we speak of a moral act or a moral
person and of an ethical system or code. To be sure the ethos and morals
of a community does not fall from the sky but they are manmade
agreements which distinguish one community from the other. ,ur set
norms and values govern the very e"istence of a particular society. Thus
we have set values and norms in our respective communities and families.
,ur norms and values di-er from place to place. consequently we have
particular norms and values in the church which might not necessarily
correspond with norms and values in the broader society. &omething might
therefore be morally right but not legally right and vice versa.
/nderstood this way it then goes without saying that our current conte"t
is very important. 0istory has taught us that the leadership of nations and
societies is crucial to the sustenance o any nation or society. #et us now
brie$y consider our current conte"t and ask what role ethical leadership
enjoy in this.
Our current dilemma
1lmost all sectors stakeholders in society seem to be unanimous in
saying we have a huge challenge of getting the public sector to
operate more e-ectively. 1nother concern seems to be the dearth of
leadership to e-ect this change. It is very important that we
acknowledge that all these concerns are sometimes voiced without
noting the global capitalist conte"t in which we e"ist today. This
country has opted to be part of that global capitalist culture. 1rguing
about the merits or demerits of such as hegemony is perhaps not
too important here. 2hat must be said out right is that we are part
of a consumerist and materialist culture of dog( eat(dog.
)ontrary to the past when community was the ultimate goal that all
where striving for the individual has today becomes the most
important entity. ,ur immediate history reminds us that the &outh
1frican society is at best a very contradictory society. It is a
contradictory society because it has vast opulence and vast poverty
at the sometime. In a conte"t of deprivation and scarcity 3a
situation which characteri4ed and continues to characteri4e &outh
1frica today5 the invitation to the leaders of a revolution 6 which
usually comes with a promise of incentives is embraced by leaders
who overnight reali4ed that they do not eat principles but food.
#eadership in this regard is therefore not characterised by principles
and scruples but rather how much more power they can attain.
The Italian philosopher 1ntonio *ramsci deals with the notion of the
hiring out of the leadership of the masses by the political and
economic hegemonies of today. 0e argues that no hegemony can
keep itself in power only by coercion 6 that is by its police and
military it needs the legitimacy of its subjects. it needs the consent
of its subjects. Therefore it is incumbent on such hegemonies to
make sure that the masses see them as credible to such an e"tent
that the masses themselves become the spokespeople for the
In the case of &outh 1frica with its much skewed distribution of
wealth the invitation from these hegemonies is a welcomed
phenomenon. 1ll these places great strain on the rebuilding of
communities. The legitimacy given by the common people is also
not without its problems. ,ur people who are the majority that we in
the public service need to serve understand the legitimi4ing
hegemonies more than any other simply because they weigh their
current struggles with the past. It goes without saying that they
deeply appreciate the sacrifces of liberation movements yet this is
often e"ploited. #iberation movements earn for themselves
entitlements to govern the now liberated masses. It is because of
this sense of entitlement to govern that some liberation movements
can continue to behave and act like many liberation movement
across the globe. 2hile it is important to admit this it is at the same
time equally important to note that while political power is made
responsible yet economic power is left irresponsible in this country.
+any in this country still fail to see the link between the current vast
poverty and wealth.
Our current dilemma a created dilemma
+oral regeneration will only occur once we sincerely acknowledge
some of the most unpalatable issues. ,ne such issue is the fact that
moral regeneration ought to be an urgent item in especially black
communities. 7or moral regeneration in black communities to be
e-ective it must acknowledge the comple"ities within the black
communities as well as the black e"perience itself. I am reminded
principally of &teve 8iko9s poignant in reference to the black
community. 0e observed that to grow up in a township takes a
miracle. This for me suggests that we need to concede that the
mores of our communities and especially black communities had
become eroded by systems that had preyed on darker people for its
own sustenance. I am very much aware that to speak about black
and white today has become rather controversial for some. I do
believe however that one of the reason why we keep on dealing with
issues such as the need for moral regeneration etc and not seem to
be getting it right is because we are asking the wrong questions and
not dealing with the real issues. There are of course reasons why we
have opted for a more human and abstract language when we get to
defning us as a nation. 2e have been lifted up as a miracle child to
the world and as such we are supposed to behave accordingly.
2hile not everything is bad in being lifted up in such a manner we
have become at best a very dishonest and polite society. 2e act
politely and pretend not to see how deeply the structural injustices
of the past are entrenched in our current conte"t. In as much as we
might prefer not to think about it we must concede that there are
many &outh 1fricas in this one country. This makes it impossible for
everyone to foist social cohesion.
Covenanting with black South Africa
+oral regeneration which must have at its heart the intention to
foster accountability of public servants to their various
constituencies must be a covenant especially with black &outh
1frica. I say this simply because the black e"perience is still a
matter that cannot and must not be ignored by serious
leadership in this country. If we agree that we have in this
country a history that had encouraged the $ight from the black
self then we must admit that there are things that black people
will have to do for themselves and on their own terms in their
communities. It means that in as much as we acknowledge the
histories which had engendered di-erences among us a nation
but also as black people we need to begin to challenge our
various leaderships to be more intentional in dealing with our
problems. I want to end by reading a quote from the 2illie
#ynch letter. #ynch was the slave owner whose name became
infamous for hanging black people especially in the &outh of the
/&1. 0e was invited to share his tactics about the making of a
slave and was disturbed by the hanging of what he termed
precious cargo. This is what he said as he shared his highly
successful tactics on the banks of the :irginia ;iver in <=<>.
?on top of my list is age but only because it starts with an @aA.
The second is color
or shade. There is intelligence si4e se"
si4es of plantation status of plantation attitude of owners
whether the slaves live in a valley or on a hill .... 0ave fair hair
course hair or is tall or short. Bow that you have a list of
di-erences ... I shall assure you that distrust is stronger than
trust and envy stronger than adulation respect or admiration.
The black slaves after receiving this indoctrination shall carry on
and will become self refuelling and self generating for hundreds
of years maybe thousands.9

In the conte"t of the tension between blacks in &outh 1frica and blacks from other
parts of the continent the issue of colorism has proven to be very real. 7or an in(depth
analysis of the preference for lighter skin and the ranking of individual worth according to
skin tone see %.B. *lenn. Shades of Diference: Why skin color matters. &tanfordC
&tanford /niversity press. >DDE.
2. #ynch. The Willie Lynch letter and the making of a Slave. =-.