Thursday 15 April 2021
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Work Ethics: Public Service

Many years ago Albert Einstein said ‘the example of great and pure personage is the only thing that can lead us to find ideas and noble deeds.’ He was referring to virtuous conduct and its impact on the progress of any given society.
Everyday politics and analysis tells that we have a huge problem of unemployment, and this has become a key subject to score points during local, regional and national campaigns. However, is unemployment the real problem?
While it is politically correct to refer to the problem of unemployment as the cause of many social ills, we need to look at something much deeper.
I’m personally convinced that unemployment is but the tip of the real problem of our society. Note that this isn’t to downplay the fact of high unemployment in this country.
Rather than a politicised and misdirected focus on unemployment, there is need to address unemployability.
How employable are majority of Namibians? I’m not referring to training and academic qualifications but rather to a much more fundamental issue of work ethics; something that cannot be solved by the usual political promises and manifestos concerning job creation in order to reduce unemployment. Rather, it is about how we should respond to the general lethargy for work, waste of time spend on the phones, playing computer games, posting selfies on social media, while work keeps lagging behind and with no consequences for non-performance.
It seems that we’re caught up in a public service that lacks role models who exhibit virtues of commitment to meaningful contribution to society through work. For example, the top-level management of civil servants use their positions to go on unauthorised holiday trips to their farms, do their side-businesses and tenders during work hours. Not to mention that today is Friday and many public servants have left for the weekend before the end of business day.
Indiscriminate of rank, absenteeism and loafing has become the culture. Many stay in public service because it’s the only place that seems to tolerate their slothfulness and is a way of security into old age, thinking of pension benefits when reaching retirement.
The poor work ethics we see in the public service may be reflective of that we’re nation of unemployable people, not because of lack of skills but because of poor fundamental attitude towards work. For example, many unemployed people are all sitting and wishing for a job interview of a job that has a nice salary and benefits. On the other hand, many Zimbabwean immigrants who are unemployed are out on our streets being productive, instead of waiting on someone to give them a job.
The rate of negativity towards work as experienced at present, cannot be changed by policies and lobbying investors to bring more business.
We first need a complete change of attitude on how we thing about work. Unfortunately, the negative attitude isn’t just among the already working class; it’s a culture that’s also found among potential future employees.
The average university graduate goes through university doing the bare minimum, yet expects high credits for shoddy and plagiarised assignments, and upon graduation, they expect executive jobs.
We’ve created a culture that promotes minimalism, rewards slothfulness and keeps goldbricks with neither the desire for excellence nor the drive for success, the focus is the paycheque for non-performance.
Unemployment is a serious social issue and I sympathise with many who fail to find decent employment especially in these times. However, it isn’t as serious as having a fundamental problem, which affects all of society across the spectrum, hindering meaningful development.
Unemployment is the least of the problems when the average person that seeks employment has no other goal but the earning of a salary. Unemployment is the least of our problems if the average employee does not produce according to the job specifications, because they are busy loafing around instead of working.
The public sector should realise that it’s tasked with the duty of promoting public good. The present work ethics, as witnessed in our public service doesn’t inspire much confidence that we can achieve meaningful development. Expanding the employment pie in order to give more jobs doesn’t address the fundamental issue. We need to become a society that deliberately readjusts how we think about work, in general.
The current accountability structures can only be enforced where there is the presence of will, not just law. Most importantly, we need role models of men and women who have a strong moral sense of work and lead by example. We are faced with a root problem, which needs to be addressed effectively; a return to virtue and inculcation of virtuous character training should be a task all of society should embrace.
Only with a virtuous character, can we find noble ideas and have the will to execute them into noble deeds. Development begins with the change of our attitude towards work.

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