My colleagues and I often care for patients suffering from hallucinations, prophesying, and claiming to speak with God, among other symptoms—in mental health care, it’s sometimes very difficult to tell apart religious belief from mental illness…. Our conclusions frequently stem from the behaviors we see before us. Take an example of a man who walks into an emergency department, mumbling incoherently. He says he’s hearing voices in his head, but insists there’s nothing wrong with him. He hasn’t used any drugs or alcohol. If he were to be evaluated by mental health professionals, there’s a good chance he might be diagnosed with a psychotic disorder like schizophrenia. But what if that same man were deeply religious? What if his incomprehensible language was speaking in tongues?
IDASA MEDIA RELEASE 11 April 2011
Time for better guidelines following allegations of fraud and extravagance by Minister Shiceka Along with most South Africans, Idasa has learned with great disappointment of Cooperative Governance Minister Sicelo Shiceka’s alleged dishonesty and abuse of official travel and accommodation privileges.
If there is truth in these serious allegations, President Jacob Zuma has little option but to take the strongest disciplinary steps against his Cabinet colleague, and possibly lay a criminal charge of fraud against him. That he has admitted conduct that makes him guilty of extremely poor judgment, for which he seems unremorseful, adds weight to this imperative: Leaders are correctly held to a higher standard.
“Minister Shiceka must go”, says Idasa’s Judith February. “It is time for the President to take a firm hand against Ministers who bring South Africa into disrepute by flouting the guidelines and who may even have acted fraudulently.”
While this situation demands a quick and decisive response, one should not lose sight of the wider fact that executive self-regulation on matters of privilege is simply not working. The Ministerial Handbook, that is supposed to provide guidance for the effective management of public expenditure on these matters, continues to fail us all. The current reports are only the latest in a string of increasingly distressing excesses by the country’s leaders. The gulf between public expectations and ministerial lack of prudence and self-restraint is becoming a chasm.
The Handbook exhorts adherence to the laudable values of careful planning, necessity and austerity. But it is clear that we cannot continue to trust our political leaders to utilise their privileges with wisdom and compassion. The promised review of the Handbook is long overdue. Once again, the executive has failed to act with diligence and urgency to manage their privileges responsibly.
It is inadequate to rely on the Auditor-General to tell us afterwards that there has been abuse; we must prevent it. Directors-General, accountable to Parliament for expenditure by their Ministers, must be empowered to refuse permission for this wasteful expenditure. The Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers has been established by the Constitution to determine senior leaders’ salaries and pensions.
Perhaps it must now be permitted to determine the limits of public expenditure on executive privileges. We need to debate the options: either spending caps and clear rules to enable accounting officers to draw the line with authority, or far greater real time transparency of executive expenditure on privileges.
For further comment, please contact:
Judith February, Manager of Idasa’s Political Information and Monitoring Service, on
083 453 9817, or
Gary Pienaar, Senior Researcher on 082 541 4221