Every time on this day, I am filled with both hope and frustration at the same time as I reflect on where we are as a country. Cynicism abounds on my social media timeline by the well-heeled and educated and of course a huge dose of skepticism by the man on the street whose main concern is probably the next meal, a better job or the welfare of their offspring. At a time where perhaps it is even more necessary to be cynical and despondent, I chose to take a different approach. I chose to reflect on our Constitution, our constitutional values and score ourselves as a country from 1 to 5.
I have been doing work on values and values integration into organisational life for years as part of my organisational development and leadership work, with thousands of people in multi-nationals across the continent having gone through my workshops. I have noticed two things worth mentioning in the context of this article: One, I have noticed about values in general that many organisations pay lip service to those glib statements that decorate every financial report, entrance and office across the world, without any real meaningful effort to bring these to life, Perhaps not even knowing how to do it.
The second most interesting thing I have noticed is how personal values are. In a typical workshop of 25 people, chances that participants have the same “top” (most important) value vary between 8% and 12%. Values are the code that inform our judgements of wrong or right, and in creating a particular culture, it is important for organisations to integrate values into their process to ensure that the WHAT (deliverables) and the HOW (Culture) are always aligned. And agreeing on the values that bind people in the organisation in common and their agreed behavioural indicators is a great way of ensuring that despite the personal uniqueness of value orientation of individuals, there is an agreed shared truth about HOW WE SHOULD BEHAVE AROUND HERE!
So even as I struggle to articulate at this point in our history the vision of our country, a short-coming that I feel is a source of many challenges we are experiencing- I thought I would perhaps use the next best thing, the values as enshrined in our national constitution, as an assessment of how we are doing as a country we dreamt of waking up in 23 years ago.
Below is an outline of our values as outlined in the constitution and my own personal assessment of how we are doing in demonstrating those values 23 years down the line. The Score of 1 Means: “We have not even started demonstrating the values enshrined in our constitution”, while the score of 5 means “we are absolutely exemplary in demonstrating these values”. I also give examples of behaviour that justify my score and then I suggest one or two initiatives that would strategically and systemically shift us to the perfect score.
Finally It is important to notice that I use the word WE because in as much as the government is accountable to the alignment of the values, systems and plans, WE the people are the everyday dipstick of how well we understand and demonstrate these values. So government’s failure or success lies in our lived experience of these values in action. That having been cleared up here is my analysis:
So what does all this mean? Well it means while we have done well in some of our aspirations, there is still a ways to go to create the kind of country we all want to wake up in. While we have the high-end governance systems in place, we are failing completely as a country to integrate actions, plans and systems on the ground level in a way that it has a lasting effect on the population. This of course is where the pain points are- because in time these weaknesses will be the very undoing of the grand visions that we hold.
It’s not so much that nothing has changed on the ground; it’s more that the progress has essentially slowed to possibly a grinding halt. In some areas we are regressing on the gains earned in the early years post 1994. Unemployment is rising, the standard of education is decreasing even as more people are accessing the education system, the criminal justice system is becoming less and less effective and moral is getting lower and lower. All these indicators are positive indicators of anarchy and I predict that if we do not focus on redressing some of these indicators, we will be facing a totally ungovernable system in two to three years’ time.
It is time that our elected officials put their differences aside and speak about the country…or else they will wake one day having “won” a country that is worth nothing of the effort they are currently investing in the battle for one-upmanship. And we should start with a shared picture of the future of a country we want to wake up in- in one statement, which determines who WE the people will vote for to lead our governance systems. And it takes each and every one of us playing our part where we are, using our talents to organise and influence, while putting pressure on our elected officials to deliver on the promise they have made when we placed them in office, with the resolve to remove them in the event that they don’t deliver. WE THE PEOPLE should not be passengers anymore in the imperative to create the kind of Mzansi we all want to wake up in.
Happy Freedom Day!
Mongezi C. Makhalima is an organisation development specialist, organisational learning expert, Motivational Speaker & Chartered Executive Coach with over 20 years of working with organisations and leadership in corporate and NGO’s. He is a Chairperson of the Africa Board for Coaching, Consulting and Coaching Psychology (ABCCCP) and the MD of the Africa Centre for Work-Based Learning in Pretoria. Mongezi is passionate about working with inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs and uses his deep knowledge of leadership and the psychology of organisations towards a sustainable Africa. His full profile can be seen at http://www.abcccp.com