Effective government relations in South and Southern Africa

Speech by Deputy President Motlanthe at the Government Leadeship Summit
03 April 2013


Address by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe at the Government Leadership Summit

03 April 2013

Programme Director;

Minister of Public Service and Administration;

Ministers and Deputy Ministers;



Heads of Provincial Government Departments;

Senior Managers from across the three Sphere of Government;

Ladies and Gentlemen:



Thank you for this opportunity to address the Government Leadership Summit under the theme: 'Decade of the Public Service Cadre -Producing a Highly Productive Public Service'.



It is encouraging to see an interaction by our country's senior managers from across the three spheres of government, with the aim of enhancing a shared understanding about the role of public service in a number of key areas, including:



· Understanding the importance of seamless working integration between all spheres of government; and

· Promoting professionalism;



All these areas and more have a profound bearing on the efficacy of our civil service to execute the mandate of government.



As the theme of this Summit states our common purpose in this interaction is to work out ways that will help us produce a highly productive Public Service responsive to the current social conditions in our country.



The idea of a highly productive public service is to meet the basic needs of our people as well as contribute towards the development of our economy.



The South African state has been in continuous evolution since attainment of democracy. At times rapid and decisive, and sometimes glacial, the changes have been dictated to be the need to construct a democratic and legitimate state representing the will and able to serve the interests of the people.



As the backbone of the state civil service assumes a particularly catalytic role in this regard and can afford no room for slip-up, lest it wrecks the very machinery that must see our objectives through.



While the strategic vision of government is to achieve a united, democratic, non-racial, non-sexist and prosperous society, such lofty vision can only be realised by inspired public servants, conscious of their role at this point in history.



Indeed, without a comprehensive understanding of government philosophy and its attendant obligations for officials a paralysis of vision may very well set in, undermining the mandate of government.



This is the reason the South African constitution obliges the civil service to carry out its duties efficiently and effectively, while demanding that government activities be transparent, responsible and accountable, and the public officials that perform them be honesty.



From this it follows that the exercise of public administration is a constitutional prescription.



In this regard, government considers the state machinery an instrument to realise the principles enshrined in our Constitution; principles which, in sum, boil down to delivering social justice to the people of our country.



At the same time, delivering on social justice presumes a corps of skilled and experienced personnel well-disposed to the task imposed by the current historical stage.



Only a capable civil service can successfully contribute to tackling the socio-economic challenges facing our country.



Programme Director;



At the core of modern states are public administrations. Public administrations are in turn defined by the political philosophy of the government of the day.



In other words, public administrations take on an orientation best suited to achieving the goals of society.



Logically, then, public administrations hinge on clearly defined systems designed to achieve the goals set out in the political domain.


In other words, the public service ethos and the systems it harnesses to reach set strategic goals must necessarily be clear and compatible for it to discharge its duties optimally.



Since the onset of democracy in 1994 South Africa has opted for an administrative system that seeks to respond to the vision of a developmental state.



Conceptually, the notion of a developmental state proceeds from the premise that the state exists not for its own sake, but to manage social relations in pursuit of given strategic goals.



As mentioned earlier it is one of the imperatives of our constitutional democracy to develop a civil service that is attuned to the need to delivery social justice.



As such it appears to me that an effectual public service has to develop a deeper understanding of the constitutional imperatives and the character of the developmental state in which it serves.



This will make it easier for the bureaucracy to be consistent, predictable and able to develop the skills and career mapping required for success.



Secondly, we have to repeat the message that resource wastage cannot be tolerated. Therefore it would be important for civil service to allocate resources according to policy priorities and ensure efficient spending and value for money.



As we sit here today, our public administration is saddled with notable challenges that must be addressed with due haste.



For instance, the Diagnostic Overview of the National Planning Commission pointed out that 'many of the public sector problems with the public sector performance have to do with deeply rooted systemic issues'.



It goes on to say that 'addressing the uneven performance of the public service will therefore not be achieved through multiple new initiatives but rather through a focused and coordinated approach'.



Our key challenge then, in addition to inculcating a sense of mission and a deeper understanding of government in our civil service, is to come to terms with the nuts and bolts of the civil service machinery.



Nothing short of state capacity in the form of capable civil service machinery will effect social transformation and herald a better life for all South Africans.



On this account, the World Bank (World Bank 1997 World Development Report) defines state capacity as:



"the ability of the state to undertake collective actions at least cost to society which encompasses the administrative or technical capacity of state officials...and also includes the deeper institutional mechanisms that give politicians and civil servants the flexibility, rules, and restrains to enable them to act in the collective interest”.



In light of the above World Bank definition, the question for the digestion of this forum today is whether the South African state suffers from the weakness of incapacity or the challenge of having to drastically improve performance to meet the new needs of society.



In reflecting on this key issue we should bear in mind that the functional organisation and capability of the state is the precondition for delivering on social justice.



At the heart of this imperative is the necessity to improve government machinery to deliver on the goals of reconstruction and development.



This is premised on the understanding that the state is a strategic conveyer belt through which we can begin to address the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.



Naturally, this begs the question— what is to be done to improve the organisation, co-ordination and seamless integration and general administration of government.



To this end, we must complete the development of appropriate systems and institutional structures to expedite the development of a capable and sustainable public service.



Of course in the 19 years of democracy we have made significant progress in addressing some of these questions, culminating in a National Development Plan which sets out a 20 year vision for our country.



Programme Director;


It would be remiss of me not to touch on the all-important issue of the political-administrative interface.



The nature of the relationship between the political authority and the administrative arm of the state must always be clearly defined to preclude confusion of roles.



In the past 18 years of democratic governance conflict has often resulted from this area of inter-connection between the administrative and the political authority.



In many cases, the ensuing strained relations between ministers and Directors-General invariably see the latter leave both the department and government.



It is not hard to imagine the scale of institutional memory loss for government as a whole as an upshot of continued resignations of senior officials.



Instability occasioned by such high turnover of senior managers inevitably leads to ineptitude during transition periods as replacements are sought.



This, then, is another point to ponder for this Summit. We should, accordingly, seek ways to obviate situations in which new appointments result in paralysis of departments during the said transitions.



Finally let me reiterate that the prosperity of modern nations depends in part on a patriotic, efficient, dedicated and inspired civil service.



More than ever before, our civil service needs to adhere to the culture of human rights and excellence, as our constitution requires.



Importantly, it needs to assist with social transformation to realise social justice.



I would imagine that most of you are familiar with public service through accumulated experience over the years. Consequently, you would be intimately familiar with what I have shared with you this morning. Interestingly, the purpose of this gathering is precisely to tap into that collective experience to produce a cadre geared to the needs of our nation.



I thank you