A GOVERNANCE institute, Accountability Lab (AL Zimbabwe), has honoured five public sector workers under its Integrity Icon initiative, a global campaign that names and fames honest civil servants who go beyond their call of duty, to promote good ethical conduct.
The icons, selected by their communities, were honoured at AL Zimbabwe’s third Integrity Icon Summit held in Harare, featuring officials from the government, public service, independent commissions including the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, analysts and the media.
There is a general perception that most public servants are dishonest and corrupt, partly because of the poor working conditions and low salaries they receive.
AL Zimbabwe country director McDonald Lewanika (pictured) said the Integrity Icon campaign seeks to promote a generation of civil servants who are exemplary.
“The hope is that by identifying this cohort of civil servants, this will inspire the next generation of civil servants. A generation of civil servants who will be models, not just around what is bad, but what is good for us,” he told the summit.
“The campaign, no matter how exciting, is not an end in itself. This is just the beginning. We can begin to have conversations about what kind of civil servants we expect to see in our country. We can then start to have a conversation around good examples of good examples among civil servant, not just good examples of bad examples.”
Among those celebrated was Bernadate Bakasa, acting district social services officer (DSSO) for Harare Central, for demonstrating integrity and exemplary behaviour in the discharge of her duties, which has earned her respect from workmates and the communities she has been serving.
She is known for tackling social ills, first as a social worker in the Epworth community, and other areas equally notorious for rampant child sexual abuse, domestic violence and drug abuse, among other problems.
Her peers know her for frowning on corruption, despite many opportunities to make easy money in the social service department.
“From my understanding, integrity has to do with trustworthiness, image building and protection. I work for the government and I should ensure that whatever I do puts my government on the map. So, whatever I do, wherever I am, I have to make sure that I put my government on the map, by being professional and exemplary,” she says.
Icons who were honoured alongside Bakasa were Gracias Zhou, Francis Mhangwa, Stewart Magaya and Alban Mandeya.
Mandeya, a senior teacher at Kambuzuma Primary School, was honoured for showing honesty, strong moral principles and resisting corruption during his tenure as acting deputy headmaster at the school. This role allowed him to handle multiple tenders, which he is applauded for transparently handling while being accountable to his workmates.
He has also been paying school fees for some vulnerable pupils from a small business he runs, while also offering free extra lessons.
Another icon, Francis Mhangwa, an immigration officer stationed in Harare with over 30 years of experience, was also honoured for being a fair and impartial public servant.
He is known not to take tips or extra credit for his work, which is helping change people’s perception towards public sector workers.
At work, Mhangwa has also earned respect for being a man of integrity who shuns corruption and dishonesty.
Stewart Magaya, a processing officer at the Civil Registry Department in Mutare, was also honoured for treating all clients with dignity, which has helped change the long-held narrative that the department’s officials are rude, lazy, inefficient and corrupt, through offering friendly and efficient service.
“Magaya is a hard-working officer, who takes pleasure in solving people’s civil registration issues. He does so with a smile, which has endeared him with the Mutare community. His work ethic and demeanor have surprised many people in the community, more so because he goes out of his way to assist the public without an expectation of a kickback or reward,” AL Zimbabwe said.
Gracious Zhou, a human resources officer stationed at the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) offices in Gweru, was honoured for working with an attitude of honesty and integrity.
Speaking at the summit, Ethics Institute Zimbabwe director Bradwell Mhonderwa said leaders should have integrity and be ethical to cultivate good governance in the civil service and the country at large.
He cited several examples at home and abroad, including the laptops scandal in Parliament in which a laptop was quoted at an incredible US$9 000, saying there is rampant corruption in the public procurement system.
Mhonderwa added that good governance requires strong leadership and an ethos of integrity. Leading with integrity is an essential ethical skill that leaders badly need.
Leaders who demonstrate integrity are more likely to earn the respect of colleagues and stakeholders, including citizens. Ethical leaders use their power and influence to serve their organisations, civil service and the country as the case may be, not for self-interest and self-aggrandisement.
Principled and ethical leaders — who are accountable — also resign when things go wrong; they do not find excuses for failure and betrayal of public trust. Zimbabwe is choking from bad, corrupt and incompetent leadership.
The heavy cost of leadership failure and corruption is being felt, with the country now in a state of collapse and decay.