Public servants often get a bad reputation in South Africa but one organisation is working hard to change unfair perceptions
Integrity Idol is a campaign run in several countries including Mali, Nigeria and now South Africa. It aims to “generate debate around the idea of integrity, build a network of honest government officials who can push for positive change and inspire a new generation to be more effective public servants”.
The platform collects nominations from citizens for hard-working public servants who deserve recognition. Citizens can vote for their choice through SMS short-codes and through a website. The winner in each country is crowned in a national ceremony in the capital. Nominations for the Integrity Idol South Africa 2019 are still open, with a national call for people to nominate government employees who show exemplary integrity in their work. The campaign then ‘names and fames’ these people for the work they do in their communities.
South Africans can nominate their Integrity Idols by sending the name and contact details of nominees via a WhatsApp line, 063 311 8397.
“Accountability Lab is building the next generation of active and engaged citizens and responsible leaders around the world,” says Accountability Lab’s global communications manager Sheena Adams. “It supports change-makers to develop and implement positive ideas for integrity in their communities, unleashing positive social and economic change.”
The overall aim of the campaign is to inspire a national movement to encourage and connect honest civil servants. The Integrity Idol movement started in Nepal in 2015, and after its success, has grown to include Liberia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Mali, and Mexico.
Last year’s campaign winners included public school teachers, policemen, judges and state doctors working under incredibly difficult conditions. In Umhlali, for instance, north of Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, Captain Vinny Pillay is a policeman whose reputation was hard to ignore.
“Community members nominated and celebrated him for the sensitive way he deals with victims of crime, particularly women and children, as head of the trauma centre at Umhlali Police Station,” says Adams.
“Pillay has used his platform as an Integrity Idol to establish stronger links with community organisations that broadened the impact the policeman was able to have in his community. One of these links is with Helping Hands, founded by community activist Marcelle Jacobs, who has partnered with Captain Pillay in providing policemen with structured trauma counselling skills, which has helped improve community relations and crime reporting in the area.”
According to Accountability Lab, other winning Idols from South Africa and around the world have gone on to lead important reform processes in their countries based on the trust and credibility generated through Integrity Idol. The Lab is working with them to expand their integrity networks to do everything from developing national policies to redesigning curricula for civil service training schools.