Deepening Democracy through Access to Information
Home / Opinion / Latest Opinions RSS ← Back

Email this article

separate emails by commas, maximum limit of 4 addresses

Verification Image. Please refresh the page if you cannot see this image.

Sponsored by


Article Enquiry

Ethics and capability

Verification Image. Please refresh the page if you cannot see this image.

Embed Video

Ethics and capability

5th April 2019

By: Terence Creamer
Creamer Media Editor


Font size: -+

It is interesting to note that the National School of Government’s mandatory and compulsory programmes – launched last month as part of renewed efforts to improve the performance of South Africa’s public sector – include a compulsory programme titled Ethics in the Public Service.

No doubt, the course will traverse the basic code of conduct expected of the country’s one-million public servants and will offer practical guidelines for managing the ethical dilemmas that are sure to arise over the course of their careers. It may not even be a bad idea, however, for course graduates to be issued with a copy of the ‘code of governance pledge’ drafted by former Public Service Commission head Professor Stan Sangweni.


The code may have been written well before the governance- destroying State capture era, but it remains as relevant as ever. It reads as follows:

  • I pledge my loyalty and allegiance to the Constitution of the Republic;
  • Therefore I shall at all times uphold and maintain the Constitution of the Republic;
  • To this end, I shall at all times act in compliance with the core values and principles enshrined in the Constitution;
  • Therefore, in all actions in discharge of my duties, I shall conduct myself with the highest standard of professional ethics and spurn conflict of interest;
  • I shall promote and maintain economic, effective and efficient use and management of human and financial resources in public administration;
  • I shall ensure that public administration is development oriented;
  • I shall ensure that public services are provided to all the citizens of South Africa impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias;
  • I commit myself to respond to people’s needs promptly and to encourage the public to participate in policy-making regarding services to them;
  • I commit myself to accountability for all my actions in the discharge of my responsibilities and, to this end, shall hold myself open to public scrutiny on all my actions;
  • I shall foster transparency by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information;
  • I shall adhere to meritocracy by ensuring that employment and management practices in the public service or State-owned enterprises are based on merit, ability, objectivity and fairness;
  • I shall ensure that no employee in the public service and State-owned enterprises is favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular party or cause.
  • So Help Me God! I so Affirm!

Living up to such a pledge, however, requires more than willpower. As Professor Lynn Paine, of Harvard Business School, highlighted during a 2016 lecture in Johannesburg on ethics and governance, there is a critical relationship between a person’s level of competence and the person’s ability to act ethically.


In other words, absent the requisite skills, even an ethical employee can run into difficulty. Absent values and ethics, though, a skilled employee can take us down an exceedingly destructive path, be it at a Home Affairs office, at Eskom’s Megawatt Park head office, or, indeed, even in the Union Buildings!


To subscribe email or click here
To advertise email or click here

Comment Guidelines

About is a product of Creamer Media.

Other Creamer Media Products include:
Engineering News
Mining Weekly
Research Channel Africa

Read more


We offer a variety of subscriptions to our Magazine, Website, PDF Reports and our photo library.

Subscriptions are available via the Creamer Media Store.

View store


Advertising on is an effective way to build and consolidate a company's profile among clients and prospective clients. Email

View options
Free daily email newsletter Register Now