For Mboweni's growth plan to succeed the ANC has to give up certain dogmatic positions that were formulated when 7% growth was the status quo, writes Adriaan Basson.
Showers late. More sun than clouds. Mild.
President Jacob Zuma during the National Assembly meeting on August 31, 2017 in Cape Town. (Gallo Images)
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The South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) recently published a
report that clearly shows that there has been an unprecedentedly high interchange
of Cabinet ministers and directors-general since 2009 under President Jacob Zuma.
Accordingly, the average length of a Cabinet minister's term was 8.5 months,
and that of a director-general (DG) 22 months. Sixty percent of working
relationships between ministers and DGs lasted only 12 months and 40% of them
included an acting DG.
A concrete example of this (albeit at a lower level than DG) has also
emerged recently. After the then head of Crime Intelligence, Mulangi
Mphego, was forced to resign in 2009 for allegations that he interfered with
witnesses in the Jackie Selebi case, he was succeeded by the now-notorious
After the latter's departure, King Bhoyi Ngcobo was appointed acting
head. After him, Pat Mokushane was appointed, but he was recently fired
because he had no security clearance (only in South Africa!).
Now, the fifth head in eight years has been appointed for this important
post – again Ngcobo (who was part of Zuma's protection unit).
It also came to light in Parliament in August that the national
Department of Energy currently has 85 vacancies. It is difficult to
determine what percentage of all posts is made up of vacancies, but the fact
that it includes four of the top nine posts (including that of the DG) must be
The ongoing oversight and management problems of state-owned entities
such as Eskom, SAA and SABC, as well as the scandals at national and provincial
government departments (SASSA and Esidimeni are the most frightening examples),
is indisputable proof that there is an endemic lack of leadership, management
skills and competence in the majority of state entities. And more and
more, service delivery at local level is also impacted negatively by these
The pattern that emerges is that of a swift turn-around of senior staff
(which destroys continuity and makes good governance and efficacy almost
impossible), a high percentage of vacancies in senior posts, and a general lack
of skills to do the job.
The IRR gives three reasons for the merry-go-round phenomenon. The
first is President Zuma's politics and his personal agenda to ensure that
nobody in his Cabinet is strong enough to oppose him (and that he seemingly
hires and fires until he finds someone willing to dance to his tune).
The second is (understandable) external circumstances such as death,
resignations and the expiry of terms. But the third is simply poor
judgment and an inability to appoint people who can work together and implement
a policy agenda.
These three reasons create a “perfect storm” of organised chaos and a
state administration that is totally dysfunctional. The picture created by
the merry-go-round figures is one of “large-scale instability, constant
conflict, and ongoing turmoil”.
In addition, there is the negative impact of cadre deployment on “lower”
levels of government, where appointments are motivated by politics or
corruption, and competence does not count.
Even the Public Service Commission said in a discussion paper in 2014 that
cadre deployment and the associated corrupt practices have extremely negative
consequences for effective service delivery.
There are no recent reliable figures available, but it is estimated that
due to the unwillingness to appoint minority groups in state entities, there
are tens of thousands of vacancies on the three levels of public service.
These jobs often require a high level of expertise and experience – such
as engineers. Posts are then left vacant in, for example, municipalities with
water and sewerage problems.
The transformation ideology of racial quotas according to the formula
80% black, 9% white, 9% brown and 2% Indian, therefore, also plays a
Another factor not often considered is the impact of internal tension in
the ANC on government effectiveness. Pro-Zuma and anti-Zuma elements that
work in the public service simply cannot work together.
Unfortunately – generally speaking – South Africa is far removed from a
corps of objective and professional civil servants, especially at this
time. This means that as a result of internal party political tensions,
the operation of a department or local authority is totally
incapacitated. This partly explains the high number of suspensions and
disciplinary charges frequently imposed on civil servants.
Clearly, the erosion of the public service's capacity begins with the president-appointed
ministers and their DGs. At lower levels this is further exacerbated by cadre
deployment, corruption, the application of transformation ideology and associated
vacancies, as well as the tension within the ANC – all of which restrict
effective functioning of the state.
With the run-up to the ANC election conference in December 2017, the end
of this is unfortunately not yet in sight.
It is therefore urgent and necessary that there be a new style of
leadership at the highest level, other than the current Zuma leadership.
Whether Mrs Dlamini-Zuma will to do that, is highly doubtful.
To get an answer to this plea, one will have to wait until December
2017, and possibly later. The best one can hope for in the interim, is
that those politicians and public servants that can and want to manage, and are
willing to lift their heads above the parapet, will rise up and show
Only then can the “oneself first” culture of entitlement affecting the
majority of the current public service again be transformed into a culture of
“the people first”.
- Dr Theuns Eloff is executive director of the FW de Klerk Foundation.
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