THE African National Congress (ANC) may learn a few tricks from the work of the Gauteng legislature's integrity commissioner, Ralph Mgijima, in the party's bid to monitor and improve the ethical conduct of its members through the establishment of an integrity committee.
And while the ANC's committee is taking shape, Mr Mgijima - whose daily work involves promoting good behaviour among the members of the Gauteng legislature - says "the challenge is to ensure that the public and elected representatives are at one in terms of what ethical behaviour is".
Mr Mgijima says: "If members are not behaving then fingers should point at me for not acting."
This comes as the ANC's ethical standing in society is increasingly undermined by some senior leaders in the party, including those in government, who get embroiled in scandals that include corrupt activities, financial maladministration and unethical behaviour.
Gauteng was the first to set up an integrity committee, whose task was to probe the recent allegations against disgraced former local government and housing MEC Humphrey Mmemezi and the speaker of the legislature, Lindiwe Maseko. The committee's report on both cases is still pending but insiders say the ANC would not take severe steps against Mr Mmemezi. Some already consider the matter closed, because he has resigned from the provincial executive.
Mr Mgijima has found Mr Mmemezi guilty of unbecoming behaviour and negligence in the use of state resources. However, the commission has cleared Ms Maseko on allegations of improperly influencing a tender process.
Political analyst Steven Friedman says factional considerations will influence whether any ANC integrity committee takes action against ill-behaved members. The underlying problem in the ANC is factionalism, and any integrity committee formed without addressing this key problem will become an instrument serving factional interests.
Mr Mgijima says the conclusion of his report on Mr Mmemezi states that the case deserved "a high, if not the highest sanction from the legislature". But Mr Mmemezi was not just only a member of the legislature, but also of the executive, so Mr Mgijima recommended that the committee call on Premier Nomvula Mokonyane "to act in a decisive manner". The highest sanction is to be sacked, he says.
However, he says the circumstances are different when it comes to the legislature. "It is assumed by the constitution that the representation that comes from political parties already has public accountability. So, it is the political parties that must respond more severely to the people that they field in a forum like the legislature," he says.
Some opposition parties have called on Mr Mmemezi to step down even from the legislature, putting pressure on the ANC to take decisive action against him. Democratic Alliance Gauteng leader Jack Bloom said Mr Mmemezi should "do the honourable thing" and step down as member of the house after the standing committee of privileges and ethics found he breached its code of conduct.
However, Mr Mmemezi is the deputy provincial secretary of the party in Gauteng, and the ANC could not risk alienating his supporters. He is the fourth in command of party structures.
Mr Mgijima says he has no fear.
"People will say elected representatives have so much clout and so who am I? I have no fears. I will not be diverted by any other considerations," he says.
He says his office is duty bound to support these calls. "In order for us to take ethical behaviour to a higher level, we need members of the legislature who take their ethics very seriously. So, I have to support calls that a member who has gravely transgressed the code of conduct step aside. I cannot remain insensitive to those calls if they are going to result in the trust that the public has on public institutions growing," he says.
Insiders in the Gauteng ANC say the pending reports of the party's integrity committee on Mr Mmemezi and Ms Maseko could be used as case study.
Others have suggested the party hold a workshop on ethics to discuss the challenges arising from the two cases.