Zuma: We can’t blame apartheid anymore


President Jacob Zuma has told his top public servants to be of greater service to the public. He Friday summoned more than 200 directors-general, deputy directors-general and provincial heads of department to a meeting on how government can work more effectively and efficiently. He told them after 16 years of democracy, apartheid was no longer an excuse for failure.

In his opening address, Zuma said that government could no longer continue to operate in the same way. “While we have scored many achievements, there is still a lot of work to be done… After two decades we will not be able to make any excuses if we do not deliver faster to change the lives of our people. We will not be able to blame apartheid if villages still have no water, no electricity, no roads. We will not be able to blame anyone else if children still study under trees, if hospitals and schools are falling apart, and if there are still thousands who live in abject poverty.
“We can change the structure of government, but unless we change attitudes in the public service and improve the work ethic, we are not going to see faster change,” Zuma said. “As top managers in the public service, you are an extremely important layer within government. You determine how the public service is run. You are responsible for the pace and style of government departments as well as the quality of service delivery. Political principals rely on you to implement their vision and mission… Together we must find solutions.”

The Presidency in a statement added the civil service leaders also received a presentation on the performance and monitoring approach being pursued by the Zuma administration. “This focuses on 12 measurable outcomes that will allow government to assess its performance against its strategic priorities. All key government institutions concerned with a particular outcome participate in forums to develop a delivery agreement for that outcome. These agreements detail who will do what, by when, and with what resources.”

Public service managers would be responsible for regularly measuring and monitoring indicators, which would then inform annual revision of delivery agreements.

Zuma said his administration takes seriously every protest, adding that they would investigate how they can improve the pace and quality of delivery. Government officials, he said, also needed to change their attitude and improve their work ethic, in order for the country to see change. Zuma was frank that some of the officials did not respect the jobs they were employed to perform, the state BuaNews agency said in its report on the meeting. “We all know that the failures in our government are not mainly caused by any significant lack of capacity, nor are they caused by poor education …the simple truth is that we lack accountability.”

In discussion, managers raised a number of challenges. These included issues around the recruitment, training and retention of capable public servants. According to managers, recruitment processes often take too long; many public servants often do not receive relevant training; and it is difficult to compete with the private sector for skilled employees. Improving the functioning of government would need to look at career-pathing for people with critical skills. Many leave their field of expertise to go into management as the only means to improve their salary level.

Attending to these issues would ensure greater stability within the public service, reducing the movement of personnel in and out of the public service. Other efforts to improve government’s work should concentrate on speeding up decision making, including a review of delegation procedures across government. It was emphasised that it was necessary to ensure that compliance with the relevant laws is achieved in a manner that improves productivity, rather than contributing to inaction.

The meeting agreed that the monitoring of service delivery needs to be improved. The Presidential Hotline, and the weaknesses in delivery that it has exposed, has demonstrated the value of independent feedback from the public. This would be important for establishing if members of the public are satisfied with the services they receive, Zuma’ office said. The meeting also discussed how to address the problem of public servants having business interests, the investigation of corruption allegations regardless of the amount involved, and the reliance of government on external consultants to perform core responsibilities.

Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi echoed the same sentiments, saying that the top management must be the “commanders of service delivery.” He said they must at all time be ready to listen, serve and to account to the masses, BuaNews says.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reports unscrupulous politicians, escalating crime, poor employment prospects and low education standards are behind a growing desire among the country’s black youth to leave. “In contrast, only 33% white and Indian youth want to go, reflecting a hardening of attitudes among black youngsters who have increasingly lost confidence in government,” the paper said yesterday. The latest national BratTrax study conducted by research group Youth Dynamix reveals that although most black teenagers between 13 and 15 want to stay put, 42% are disillusioned and plan to leave as soon as they can.

The study, conducted this year, included face-to-face interviews with 900 youngsters aged seven to 15 in eight of the nine provinces. While previous research showed that this group were positive about the developments in government and believed they would benefit, they had now lost confidence in their leaders. “They are questioning our leaders and their capabilities. They are feeling disillusioned,” said research director Andrea Kraushaar.

Reflecting views similar to their white and Indian counterparts, 71% of black youth felt it was impossible to get employment in South Africa; 58% said crime made them want to live in another country, and 73% felt government was not living up to its promises. Professor Lawrence Schlebusch, an expert in behavioural medicine, said his research of stress and suicidal behaviour showed that stress levels were incredibly high among youth. “They tend to experience alienation from their own value systems and the main reason for this is because they had great expectations of the new South Africa and these expectations are not being met. “It is much harder for them now. They are finding it more difficult to get into university, the unemployment rate is far higher and there seems to be more and more polarisation.”

22 APRIL 2010

Honourable Deputy President,

Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

Directors-General and Deputy Directors-General,

Heads of Provincial Government Departments,

Ladies and gentlemen of the media,

We welcome you all to this very important meeting.

In just a few days we will celebrate Freedom Day. We will recall that special day on 27 April 1994, when our people stood in long queues together to cast their votes for the first time, for a democratic government of their choice.

We will recall the enthusiasm and hope, but also the fear of the unknown that accompanied that period.

Sixteen years later, we can boldy say that we have managed the transition very well.

Certain episodes have occurred which would have led to a bloodbath in many other countries.

However, given the political maturity of our people, and the solidity of our democratic institutions, we have managed to deal with every hardship successfully.

On the service delivery level, we can be proud of the fact that millions of our people now have basic services. Many obtained access to water, electricity, housing, education, health care and other services only after 1994.

We have played a visible role on the international front, at both bilateral and multilateral levels.

We are a key player in the emerging power bloc of the economies of the South, which augurs well for the county at both a political and economic level.

In just under 50 days we will be celebrating the biggest soccer spectacular on African soil, the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

We would not have won the rights to host this tournament were it not for the political and economic stability and the general excellent manner in which we have managed the transition as South Africans working together.

In February, we celebrated an important milestone, the release of our icon, President Nelson Mandela from prison and the unbanning of political organizations.

These are all incidents that shaped the history of this country and made us the success story that we are.

Currently, the South African flag flies in cars, homes, street corners and everywhere in celebration of the Soccer World Cup.

This tournament will no doubt help us move forward in promoting unity, reconciliation and social cohesion.

While we have scored many achievements, there is still a lot of work to be done. In just four years, we will complete 20 years of freedom.

After two decades we will not be able to make any excuses if we do not deliver faster change in the lives of our people.

We will not be able to blame apartheid if some villages still have no water, no electricity and no roads.

We will not be able to blame anyone else if children still study under trees, if hospitals and schools are falling apart, and if there are still thousands who live in abject poverty.

We must therefore start doing things differently in order to deal with the challenges that face our country and our people. It cannot be business as usual.

We have the resources, we must change the way in which we use them. We must manage government differently to expand access to a better life for all our people, especially the poor.

As top managers in the public service, you are an extremely important layer within government.

You determine how the public service is run. You are responsible for the pace and style of government departments as well as the quality of service delivery. Political principals rely on you to implement their vision and mission.

That is why it became important for us to have this unprecedented meeting with all of you, the DGs, DDGs and Heads of Departments of provincial government departments. Together we must find solutions.

We must have a frank discussion on how we can drastically change the way of working in order to correct many of the wrongs in the way government works.

Let me start by giving you the background or principles that guide what we are doing as we transform the State machinery.

Governments are formed to respond to the needs and aspirations of the people. in our country, Government is the only hope for millions of our people.

It is the only institution they look up to, to improve their lives. This is illustrated by the huge numbers that vote during the elections.

The ruling party was re-elected last year on the ticket that it would change changing the way government works.

In the election Manifesto it is stated as follows: “We will ensure a more effective government; improve the coordination and planning efforts of the developmental state by means of a planning entity to ensure faster change. A review of the structure of government will be undertaken, to ensure effective service delivery”.

It added that an important aspect of a successful developmental state is investment in public sector workers amongst others. “This means that the right and adequate numbers of personnel should be placed in the correct positions, and where this is not the case, government should have the capacity to implement corrective measures, either through training or redeployment where warranted”.

You will recall that in the inauguration speech, as the President of the Republic I committed myself to the service of our nation with dedication, commitment, discipline, integrity, hard work and passion.

I further added that: “The dreams and hopes of all the people of our country must be fulfilled. There is no place for complacency, no place for cynicism, no place for excuses. Everything we do must contribute in a direct and meaningful way to the improvement of the lives of our people”.

The meeting with you today indicates the seriousness with which we view our mandate and the undertakings we have made to the nation. We are not going to rest until our goals are fulfilled.

Some people ask what is different about this administration, compared to the three past sister administrations.

The first main difference relates to the configuration of government. Having conducted reviews of what was working and what was not, we set out to reconfigure the structure of government.

That is why we established new Ministries to improve and expand implementation.

Our reviews indicated that the lack of central and coordinated planning could be responsible for the skewed delivery of services nationally and the lack of cohesion and direction.

In the next few days we will announce names of men and women who are experts in various fields, who will be part of the National Planning Commission.

A second feature of the new administration is the development of capacity for performance monitoring and evaluation.

To ensure that government departments perform work that can be monitored and evaluated, we have adopted the Outcomes Approach.

You will receive a presentation on this later today.

This new approach forces government departments to work through measurable outputs with clear targets and well defined activities.

If the programmes you produce for your departments are designed in such a manner that they cannot be measured and evaluated, then they do not fit in with our new style and approach.

Informed by the outcomes approach, we have unpacked our five priorities into 12 outcomes.

The end result of our work should be delivery of the following outcomes:
a. An improved quality of basic education.
b. A long and healthy life for all South Africans.
c. All people in South Africa become and feel safe.
d. Decent employment through inclusive growth.
e. A skilled and capable workforce to support an inclusive growth
f. An efficient, competitive and responsive economic
infrastructure network.
g. Vibrant, equitable, sustainable rural communities with food
security for all.
h. Sustainable human settlements and an improved quality of
household life.
i. A responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local
government system.
j. Environmental assets and natural resources that are well
protected and continually enhanced.
k. A better Africa and a better world as a result of our
contributions to global relations.
l. An efficient and development oriented public service and an
empowered , fair and inclusive citizenship.

This does not mean that other government departments not involved in the implementation of these priorities are not important.

Work will still continue in all areas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We can change the structure of government, but unless we change attitudes in the public service and improve the work ethic, we are not going to see faster change.

We all know that the failures in our government are not mainly caused by any significant lack of capacity. Nor are they caused by poor pay or poor education.

It is not because the administrative systems that exist in government are worse than any other in the world. The simple truth is that we face a crisis of accountability.

In some of our front and back offices are employed men and women who do not respect the jobs they are employed in or the citizens they are appointed to perform.

In the 2009 State of the Nation address we emphasised the need for staff in frontline service departments to improve their customer care programmes and attitudes.

There is something seriously wrong in the manner in which government works at the frontline service level. The experience of government for most people is a frustrating one.

They spend more time in government offices waiting for services that are not even sure they will receive.

They meet employees across the counters who are sometimes disrespectful and unwilling to serve them. This experience of government is even worse for the poor.

They spend hours in lines waiting for services, only to be told to come back the following day or the following week.

Other than frontline departments, the public is also frustrated by the slow turning wheels generally.

It takes too long for undertakings to be honoured and for simple services to be provided. Potholes stay unfilled for months if not years, schools remain without windows, hospitals without medicines.

We would like to hear from you today why this is the case, especially when you have the staff and budgets to do the work.

Faced with these problems, citizens become dissatisfied and disillusioned with the public service. Some take drastic measures to express their dissatisfaction, as we have seen in the recent service delivery protests.

We cannot rule out the existence of motives other than service delivery in some of the protests, but as government we have to take each protest seriously, investigate and see how we can improve the pace and quality of delivery.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We stated in the 2010 State of the Nation address that the defining feature of this administration would be that it knows where people live, know what their concerns are and responds faster.

Direct contact with the people is therefore more pronounced in this administration. We have already visited several communities and have conducted our own monitoring of service delivery.

We do not want to rely on reports from public servants only, we want to see first hand what is happening where our people live.

Senior public servants also need to know where and how the people they serve live and what their concerns are. It means DGs and DDGs should be visible on the ground from time to time and not be completely desk bound.

In that way we will change the way government works in the true sense.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Changing the way government works also entails ensuring clean government. Our supply chain management systems must not be open to abuse by officials.

We are sharpening our corruption busting instruments in government to ensure that corruption does not thrive in the public sector.

Another key feature of this administration, especially with regards to opening a direct communication mechanism between the people and the Presidency, is the Presidential Hotline.

Since its formation, the Hotline has done much to promote government responsiveness and accountability.

Since its establishment in September last year, the Presidential Hotline has received over 674 000 complaints from citizens.

The large volume of calls indicates both the need for such a service and the eagerness of South Africans to interact with government.

Through this service, hundreds of people have managed to have problems attended to and resolved, and it has set a new trend with regard to citizen care.

Complaints include municipal services, unfair labour practices, housing shortages or delays, land claims, social grants, poverty relief, financial services, complaints about parastatals, late payments by government departments and a host of others.

While the Hotline has been successful in resolving enquiries, the response of some government Departments and Provinces to enquiries has been far from satisfactory.

We have to do something drastic to change the way we relate to enquiries from the public.

We are aware that in some departments Hotline duties have been assigned to very junior officials.

I do not want to pre-empt the discussion we are going to have today as you probably have reasons why this is happening, but let me state from the onset that this cannot be allowed to continue.

We may have escalate the task to DG level. The DGs would become principal public liaison officers so that we can receive quicker responses.

I would like to hear your views in this regard.

This meeting could also discuss tangible ways of making citizen care to form part of top management performance agreements more explicitly, with clear outcomes being stipulated especially in relation to the Hotline.

As you are aware, performance management systems in government are supposed to be an important tool of monitoring performance.

If we are serious about changing the way government works, and the way public servants work, we must use the performance management system correctly and effectively.

People must be rewarded for hard work that changes the lives of citizens for the better. Those who do not perform, and who fail to change even after corrective measures, should be encouraged to leave the public service.

As said earlier, the population votes for political parties of their choice and the victorious party forms a government which implements its policies.

The ruling party has pronounced itself clearly on how to deal with incompetence.

It said in the January 8, 2010 statement: “Where people are found to be incapable of performing the tasks assigned to them, we must work with speed to either capacitate such people or replace them with more capable people.
“Where people are found to be unwilling, for whatever reasons, to address the needs of those they are meant to serve, we must ascertain the reasons for such unwillingness and then address the situation accordingly”.

Ladies and gentlemen,

When all is said and done, government is about serving the people. We can have all our various grand titles, but in the final analysis we are public servants.

The problem of accountability will not be solved by the most sophisticated technologies and the most complicated administrative systems.

What we need is a different type of a public servant; a public servant who respects the citizens he or she serves. A public servant who values the public resources she has been entrusted to manage. We need a public servant who comes to work on time and performs his or her duties diligently.

This is what changing the way government works means in the final analysis. It is constantly keeping in mind that we are in the business of public service.

We have to put our people first by serving them faster, with dignity and respect.

I ask you today to use the authority you have been entrusted with to change the way government works.

I am looking forward to very fruitful discussions.

I thank you.