‘Isn’t it time to rethink SA’s transformation policies?’

The Public Service Commission has suggested that it may be time to rethink the government’s appointment and transformation policies.

Powers given to the executive to make certain appointments after 20 years of democratic dispensation should also be looked at.

Acting PSC chairperson Richard Sizani made the comments today when addressing the Developmental State Conference in Centurion, Pretoria.

Senior government officials, ministers and international experts gathered at the conference to discuss what policies South Africa needs to amend to enable it to become a capable developmental state as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).

Sizani indicated that current transformation practices – including affirmative action, employment equity and cadre deployment – began after 1994, when a new government found a public service which only catered for white communities.

These practices were meant to transform the civil service.

Sizani told delegates – among them Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa and former PSC chairperson professor Stan Sangweni – that the need to professionalise the civil service informed their recommendation that recruiting candidates into government should be based on a “competitive and open” process, which would include entrance examinations for those seeking jobs in the civil service.

“The question we should ask at this conference is that, after 20 years of that experience and the changes and recommendations we have done, isn’t it time we should relook things without pointing fingers? Is there any other way that we can look at these matters?” asked Sizani of transformation policies which, according to the Constitution, gives powers to the executives to make certain appointments.

The conference, which will come up with recommendations on what needs to be changed in the civil service, also briefly tackled the burning issue of cadre deployment.

Defending the deployment of “capable cadres” into the civil service, PSC commissioner Phumelele Nzimande also took a dig at the SABC debacle on the issue of chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and SABC chairperson Ellen Tshabalala, who have defended themselves in the high court against accusations that they lied about their qualifications.

Nzimande, a former senior executive of the SABC, told delegates that she was a capable cadre and had the delegates in stitches when she said: “I am a capable [cadre], even if I have to say so myself ... But when I was in charge of HR at the SABC everyone came with a certificate, I can tell you. That’s what differentiates deployment and capable cadres.”

A discussion document to be thrashed out at the conference laments the fact that in some cases state departments undermine the Employment Equity Act and affirmative action principles by appointing people who are not “equal to the task at hand”.

“They must be suitably qualified people in order not to sacrifice efficiency and competence at the altar of remedial employment,” says the document

“The Employment Equity Act sets itself against the hurtful insinuation that affirmative action measures are a refuge for the mediocre or incompetent.”

The report also bemoans the fact that the country’s civil service has not transformed itself to be a “career of choice” for professionals even 20 years into democracy, due to the uneven selection of candidates for jobs.

The conference continues until Thursday.

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