The first African-American woman from a major political party to run for US President, Shirley Chisholm, said that "service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth."
Not every person cares about public service, but those who choose to serve a nation by taking the oath of office or by solemnly affirming to be faithful to our Republic, must view their service as a privilege. South African cabinet members who have committed themselves to public service must understand that they are adequately remunerated to enable a comfortable, not luxurious lifestyle.
In a Sunday Times article this weekend, Minister of Science and Technology Naledi Pandor reminded the African National Congress that it has failed to implement a national executive committee decision taken in 2016 to scrutinise party leaders' lifestyles.
By making this call, Minister Pandor has shown great courage as she holds her fellow NEC member's feet to the fire, especially at a time where the ANC is failing the South African electorate dismally. The inability of capable ANC leaders to speak out against government failure and corruption is fast-corroding public trust.
Lifestyle audits of those who are placed in charge of our country do not amount to "policing black wealth", as public service can never be a means of accumulating wealth. Working in service of a profoundly unequal society, South African politicians must zealously guard against the words of the Greek poet, Aristophanes, that "once [the orators in our republics] are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice, plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy" ringing true.
Unlike the titans of industry who get mind-blowing bonuses when the companies they manage perform well, thus enabling them to live in luxury, our cabinet ministers are unable to do so. However, the absence legislation enforcing a cooling off period after leaving office seem to indicate that South Africans do not mind that public officials position themselves such that when they leave office they are able to cash in on developments and plans they directly influenced while in office. We seem willing to make this trade-off when party leaders fulfil their duties beyond reproach and without receiving questionable payments while they are in office.
The decision by the ANC national executive committee to conduct lifestyle audits is a laudable attempt to be accountable and hold themselves and other party leaders to a higher standard, but a decision without implementation is useless. Minister Pandor reminds us of that.