Stop the DG musical chairs

There’s a tale and perhaps it is apocryphal.

If it is, we apologise in advance.

Reportedly, Communications Minister General Siphiwe Nyanda has never met with representatives in the mobile phone industry.

This is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.

It is a growing contributor to GDP and, more importantly, to our ­future.

In many ­developing countries access to broadband, data, mobile phones and other new forms of ­communication is ramping up growth and ­wellbeing.

We are a late starter and already lag behind ­countries like Kenya in broadband speeds.

Nyanda made a focus on broadband a core part of his policy but precious little has happened. ­Instead, he has been firefighting across his portfolio and, most significantly, in his department.

He has been involved in a war of attrition with his director-general, Mamoduphi Mohlala. It may have ended this week with her new appointment but it has delayed the minister’s work by months.

As City Press reported last week, DGs are ­leaving their portfolios more quickly than ­President Zuma takes new wives. By our count, we had lost six DGs in the national sphere alone in the first year of the Zuma administration.

The president’s DG, Vusi Mavimbela, also quit – at least one factor that has led to a sense of drift in the Presidency.

This week, another DG hit the jobs trail.

As City Press reported last week, ­Higher Education and Training Minister Blade Nzimande asked his DG, Mary Metcalfe, to quit.

While both parties this week tried to put a gloss on things, it is highly unlikely that she would have left after just a year.

The department is new and not only was ­Metcalfe responsible for this new institution, she was also overseeing the complete recasting of the skills training system.

The sectoral training ­authorities are largely in disarray and it will take years to reshape the system that the ­department inherited from the labour department.

What goes wrong in the relationship between DGs and ministers?

The obvious answer is that there are turf battles as both sides try to decide where political responsibility stops and administrative decision making starts.

Add to the ­conundrum the fact that most DGs are deployed cadres, and the clashes are more acute as these top civil servants have firm politics too.

There are now also huge issues about who gets departmental tenders and jobs.

One DG told City Press that the minister ­wanted to fill all jobs with pals and had to be stopped.

This vexed relationship must be sorted out or Metcalfe’s departure will not be the last.


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