The National Education Health and Allied Workers’ Union (Nehawu) placed some of the blame for service delivery problems on Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel, after he raised concerns about the civil service this week.
“While (comrade) Trevor Manuel raises some valid and indisputable points about the need to improve service delivery, fighting corruption and also of serving South Africans, irrespective of their political persuasion, he is not being totally honest,” said Nehawu spokesperson Sizwe Pamla today.
On Wednesday, Manuel said the National Development Plan would not get off the ground unless the public service sector was fixed.
He was concerned about the relationship between senior civil servants and politicians and said it was time for government to start taking responsibility for its actions, and to stop blaming apartheid.
“He is also not being honest when he wants us to pretend that apartheid never existed. His statement that we cannot ‘blame everything on apartheid any more’ is dishonest,” said Pamla.
“What he forgot to mention was that the current government has spent the last couple of years trying to reverse some of the disastrous policy positions that he championed as the minister of finance.”
He said Manuel supported neoliberal macroeconomic policies, and privatisation, outsourcing and public-private partnerships that had proven “disastrous for the public sector”.
He advocated a “lean and mean” state with no clear human resource strategies and, in the health sector, this resulted in reduced capacity to deliver services, said Pamla of the former trade and industry, then finance, minister.
Between 1996 and 2007, he said, spending on the public healthcare system decreased, leading to vacant posts not being filled, infrastructure not being maintained and spending on consumables, such as laundry, being reduced.
Services such as catering, cleaning and security were outsourced.
“Although, since 2007, there have been some improvements in spending, there is still a challenge of trying to reverse the damage which was done during the period of limited spending,” said Pamla.
He said the country was still dealing with the socioeconomic effects of apartheid.
“The failure of government’s land reform policy is a clear case of how arduous it is to reverse a colonial and apartheid legacy. It is hard not to draw the conclusion that behind this apparently newfound ‘service-delivery activism’ from Trevor Manuel lurks some political frustration.
“He has always preferred to be the one who sets the agenda,” said Pamla, saying Manuel declined nomination to the ANC’s national executive committee so that he could “continue to act as an independent maverick”.
People needed to be honest in diagnosing service-delivery problems, and not nit-pick for points-scoring purposes, Nehawu said.