Why do we sign contracts? There used to be a time when you gave your word concerning an issue and that was enough to guarantee that something would happen. If one gave their word that they would deliver goods to a certain place at a certain time, their word was taken as binding and if one failed to keep their word, they could be taken to a court of law and their word could be used against them. Over time people began to change and less trust was placed in someone’s word and more on what they signed on a piece of paper. As time went on it became apparent that a “verbal contract is not worth the paper that it is written on”. No longer did people expect you to fulfill something simply based on a promise you gave them – now you had to put it down on paper because that was seen as the only way to prove any binding connection between two parties. So we ended up with contracts for everything, more especially getting employment. The terms of your contract determined not only what you were expected to do and what your wages would be, but also what you were not expected to do, giving you areas of responsibility which if you did not fulfill, the employer had a basis on which he could fire you. So overall, there are sensible reasons for signing contracts. Yet I find the recent wave of ministers signing agreements with the president to reach specific targets a slap in the face. Did not their employment contracts specify their roles when they were employed? As the minister of Police for example, isn’t your job description specifically aimed at coordinating the safety of our country and reducing the crime rate anyway? Why do you need an additional pledge to say you will now begin doing the very job you were hired to do? The whole spectacle says to me that since coming into office, the ministers have just been enjoying the perks and benefits of the positions and showing up at meetings just to look good. Then when things seem to be getting out of hand, with the president wanting give us a show of strength, new pledges to actually work are signed and for me that nullifies the previous work contracts that they have already signed. It is clear that not all ministers are like that – for instance, one of the better examples of a hard working minister is Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the minister of home affairs. And I am sure that there are others as well who are not as profiled but are also a hard working bunch and it is good to know that there are those who do want to fulfill the terms of their contracts. For those who signed new pledges, all I can say is their performance should be linked to their salaries/bonuses. There is nothing more motivating for a public official than to know that what they do (or fail to do) will impact on how much they get paid; but unlike the private sector, the public sector has shown itself to be too tolerant of incompetence and unless there is an outcry or crisis, nothing seems to change. So what was the point of the presidential contract signing show?
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