LAST week we carried a report about how an Mpumalanga mayor had his wife appointed as council spokesperson. The Gert Sibande district municipality's riposte was that "all necessary procedures were followed".
The Ermelo-based council had acted according to the book, there could therefore be no conflict of interest or nepotism issues to be dealt with.
It would be easy to attack the municipality for hiding behind technicalities to perpetuate what is clearly in bad taste, regardless of what the rulebook says.
But what this municipality did is in keeping with a growing national ethos.
Cabinet ministers bought obscenely expensive cars for which taxpayers footed the bill and, as their junior comrades at the Gert Sibande council told anybody who questioned them that they had done things by the book.
Some members of Parliament contrived to add R40 000 to their monthly salaries by choosing to drive to and from Cape Town every week instead of taking flights already paid for. This abuse of the public kitty was again justified on the basis that no law was broken.
It is in this legalism that the germ of many of our social and political problems lies.
Public representatives consistently become dismissive of common decency and hide behind the sterility of the rulebook.
Unless we see some desire to change from the very top, heaping scorn on the likes of the Gert Sibande council would be to worry about a pimple when we are dying of skin cancer.
The yardstick should therefore be moral defensibility rather than lawfulness. By the former standard, our career politicians are a dismal failure.