• Moi-era loyalty pledge should be updated to address poor governance in Kenya today
Cape Town, and the rest of the Western Cape Province, is still recovering from the recent eight-day minibus taxi strike, which brought the city and the province almost to a standstill reminiscent of the Covid-19 lockdown.
For a little background, the taxis (in Kenya we call them matatus) strike has been described as “a law enforcement dispute between minibus taxi operators in the province, as represented by South African National Taxi Council and the City of Cape Town authorities”.
Basically, taxis in Cape Town went on strike because they felt their operations were being unfairly targeted by the City’s law enforcement authorities, who under a newly amended City by-law began impounding the taxis that were found to have violated the new laws.
The taxis were being impounded in cases where drivers were unable to produce a valid operating licence, or were found to be operating contrary to the conditions of their operating licence.
The by-laws allow the City to charge either a daily or monthly tariff for storage of impounded vehicles, and owners had three months from the date of the impoundment in which to retrieve their vehicle.
Taxi owners complained they were suffering as a result of their vehicles being off the road and unable to make money, they were struggling to pay the fines and continue with payments to their banks on their taxi loans.
The person behind the enforcement of the law was Cape Town’s no-nonsense mayoral committee member for safety and security, JP Smith, who takes his job very seriously, some might say too seriously.
Anyway, now that the crisis is over, for the time being, it would seem, JP, as he is known here, has turned the guns on his own people, as if to show he has no favourites.
Council staff have been told in no uncertain terms that they are not special, and like all other motorists in Cape Town, they will have to visit the City’s website to view their traffic fine status, and to settle any outstanding warrants to clear their names.
Because I’m all for fairness, I like this idea that City staffers won’t be treated differently from ordinary motorists if they missed the deadline for either paying or disputing their traffic fine and did not show up in traffic court to defend themselves.
I firmly believe the leadership of any organisation, be it political or social, should set the tone and drive good governance, organisational integrity and anti-corruption initiatives.
When I was at school, we used to have to say a loyalty pledge to the President and to the country.
The President part was, in my view, unnecessary, but that was also post-the 1982 coup attempt, and the one-party state was feeling a little needy, to say the least.
Loyalty to the country may sound old-fashioned and even somewhat jingoistic to some these days, but I still think it is very important.
By the way, loyalty does not mean you can’t be critical. In the words of the writer and thinker James Baldwin, 'I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticise her perpetually.'
If I ever had the power to enforce it, I would insist that every single leader, from county ward representatives to governors, senators, MPs and the executive, start each official function and meeting with a pledge of moral responsibility to the citizens of the country.
It would go something like this: “As (MCA/Governor/Senator/MP/Deputy President/President), I am the custodian of good governance on behalf of the electorate.
“I am responsible for ensuring the (ward/county/constituency/country) is governed effectively and ethically.
“I need to fulfil this responsibility in line with my conscience and in the best interests of the citizens.
“This responsibility is mine alone. If I fail at this, I fail the people of (my ward/county/constituency/country).”
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