President Cyril Ramaphosa says South Africa’s public service is not bloated, but is falling short of expectations because of factors such as political interference and patronage.
Ramaphosa made the comments in his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday. He used the newsletter to mark the start of the annual Public Service Month on Tuesday, 1 September.
He wrote, “The view that the public service is bloated is misplaced. Public servants include officials and administrators, but they also include doctors, nurses, police men and women and teachers who play an invaluable role in keeping the wheels of our country turning.
“The real issue is whether – given its size, cost and needs of our country – the public service is performing as it should. The experience of our people is that in several areas, the state is falling short of expectations.”
Ramaphosa said political office bearers, such as Ministers, MECs and Mayors, often get involved in administrative matters which are the preserve of public servants. The appointment of senior public servants based on political patronage has also weakened the service, he added.
“As much as the ranks of our civil service comprise individuals committed to driving government’s programme of action, it has also over the years been associated with patronage. This is manifested through the appointment of people into senior positions based on considerations other than their capability to execute the tasks of the office they are appointed to,” the President said.
The ruling African National Congress (ANC), which Ramaphosa leads, has often come under criticism for its “cadre deployment” policy. Analysts have argued that the policy has entrenched patronage and corruption in the ANC and government, particularly during former President Jacob Zuma’s term of office.
“Cadre deployment is at the root of the corruption and collapse of our state,” Democratic Alliance (DA) MP Leon Schreiber said in a statement in June. The party likened it to “state capture” and filed a complaint at the state capture commission of inquiry.
Ramaphosa said the government is committed to the National Development Plan’s goal of attracting only the “brightest” in society to the public service. This will be achieved through a “a formal graduate recruitment scheme.”
The government is also continuously training and upskilling members of the civil service through the National School of Government, he said.
“Being a public servant is an honour and a privilege. It demands dedication, selflessness, professionalism, commitment and the utmost faithfulness to the principles of Batho Pele, of putting the people first.
“Public servants are entrusted with managing state resources for the benefit of the public and in guarding against them being misused and abused. They are representatives of a government derived of the people and for the people, and are guardians of our Constitution,” the President said.