- not corrupt
- not filled with monsters from the past
- not a joke
COPE (the Congress of the People Party) in an apparently shrewd move, picked Mvume Dandala as their presidential candidate. A Methodist minister, and not a career politician, was perhaps a good choice to fight an anti-corruption campaign, but then they blew it by also choosing Allan Boesak. Of course the Pan African Congress (PAC) also chose a prominent Methodist minister, Stanley Mokhoba, in 1999, and still not no more than 1% of the vote.
In the 1990s, after the fall of Bolshevism, public opinion polls showed that in Russia the Church was the most trusted institution in society - above business, the army, politicians, academics. One resuly of this was that politicians were always looking for photo ops with church leaders, in the hope that some of the magic pixie dust would fall on them.
But when I was applying for a job at London Transport when I went to England as a student, and the only people I knew in England were clergy, they said that clergy were not acceptable as references. Anyone else but not clergy. Clergy, of course, as just as much sinners as anyone else, but in this case they were regarded as somehow more corrupt and even less truthful. So putting clergy as the public face of a political movement to show that it is honest can backfire.
A fellow-blogger and Methodist minister Dion Forster is involved in a new initiative to encourage ethical behaviour in all politicians, business people, civil servants and others, Unashamedly Ethical:
Unashamedly Ethical is a broad based, independent, initiative to promote ethics, values, and clean living among business and individuals. It challenges people to make a personal pledge to ethical living, and challenge others to do the same. In doing so we can turn the tide on corruption and poverty.Now that could be a good idea, but I think some people are just too wedded to greed for it to make that much difference.
A pledge is a good thing. It is a good thing to encourage people to follow ethical values, and to agree to do so publicly. But perhaps something more is needed. Perhaps someone needs to record unethical behaviour as well. There are radio ads about not trying to bribe police officers, but how effective are they when police officers themselves solicit bribes?
Many years ago there was a court case when a Newcastle busnessman tried to bribe a traffic cop to quash a ticket. The traffic cop took the bribe, but the busnessman still had to go to court and pay his traffic fine, and he sued the traffic officer. The judge in that case threw it out of court, but not before making remarks about the unbelievable moral turpitude of both the plaintiff and the defendant. The trouble is that that kind of moral turpitude is now so commonplace as to be almost unremarkable.
As the Unashamedly Ethical web site says,
... people are tired of the injustice, abuse and lack of accountability we see all around us. People are constantly being challenged to change and to go public with their values and beliefs so that their peers and constituencies can hold them accountable.
But when foreigners are arrested and threatened with deportation by officials who threaten to destroy the papers that show they are here legally unless they get a bribe, it is often easier to pay the bribe. Thaking pledges are all very well, and can be good PR for business organisations, civil servants and politicians. It's what happens when they break their pledge that might make the difference.