Constantly changing DGs has weakened the state – Ramaphosa

2020-03-04 08:50
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. (OJ Koloti, Gallo Images)

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President Cyril Ramaphosa says that, for the sake of strengthening good governance, he is in favour of the idea that directors general (DGs) serve longer terms in state departments than the prescribed five-year contract terms currently in place.

Ramaphosa made the comments during a meeting with the media and the South African National Editors' Forum at Tuynhuys in Cape Town on Tuesday.

READ | Ramaphosa vows no more poorly-qualified people in key state posts - even if they're politically connected

The president said he believed DGs needed to serve longer terms.

"As a minister came into office, they felt that: 'I didn't like this DG,' and then they were changed and another [came] in," said Ramaphosa.

"Part of the weakening of the state came about when DGs were changed."

'Serve the people of South Africa'

The president said the five-year contracts were seen as a way to usher the country's apartheid-era civil service out of the government of national unity and sunset clauses.

"The problem is, we let the pendulum swing too much the other way, to a point where we started losing what strengthens the state, of having a professional - if you like - cohort of civil servants, who know their task is to serve the people of South Africa," said the president.

Currently, directors general lose focus of their mandate mid-term as they start to "prepare" to leave their posts and find other jobs, Ramaphosa added.

"You start looking elsewhere because you are not so sure [the new] minister looks at you with favour every morning, a smile and so forth. You think I should start preparing to get out of here and you defocus," he said.

He didn't share details of how the status quo could be changed.

The issue has been something Ramaphosa has attempted to address in the past. Several reports following the 2019 elections suggested he was considering having administrative heads of departments report directly to him and taking away ministers' power to appoint their preferred DGs.

"I believe we need a cohort of civil servants that is depoliticised, that just focuses on work that needs to be done and have tenure."

He added that when political tenure was lost, politicians started interfering with heads of departments.

"[We] started politicising them and this is what has brought us to where we are to have a state that is not as capable as it should be," said Ramaphosa.

He suggested that the Public Service Commission should be in charge of making the appointments.

Read more on:    cyril ramaphosa  |  cape town  |  politics  |  service delivery

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