Home Opinion and Features The ‘South African Dream’ of being a civil servant is a nightmare...

The ‘South African Dream’ of being a civil servant is a nightmare to everyone else

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OPINION: Our civil servants have perks that regular corporate employees can only dream of – everything from subsidies to guaranteed annual increases, which do not depend on any sort of incentives,” writes Bobby Brown.

Bobby Brown’s friend reckons being a civil servant in SA is the cushiest job in the world. File picture

I HAD coffee with a friend over the weekend and we were shooting the breeze about this and that, eventually ending up talking politics.

Then he said something that I had never really thought about in that way before.

He explained that the “American Dream” is essentially the idea that opportunities exist for you to build yourself up from a nobody into somebody through hard work.

With determination and consistency, the corporate world allows you to climb to the very top and maybe even become wealthy in the process. In essence, if you’re even just vaguely talented, there is nothing to stop you.

The problem comes in if you are not at all talented and you’re trying to busk your way to the top.

Then he went on to explain how this differs from what he called the “South African Dream”, which in his view is simply becoming a politician or at least landing a 
government job.

He reckons being a civil servant in SA is the cushiest job in the world and this put me on a thought pattern that I have been unable to shake the entire weekend.

Our civil servants have perks that regular corporate employees can only dream of – everything from subsidies to guaranteed annual increases, which do not depend on any sort of incentives.

They have job security even in the worst of economic times, and being unionised means they really have to mess up properly and consistently before they even see the contents of a disciplinary letter.

It’s the reason why you read stories of public servants who have been sitting at home for months with full pay while a disciplinary process is being considered.

And this also explains why there is no need to give us, the public, the best of service.

Now of course there are many exceptions. But, by and large, civil servants don’t have the best of reputations, especially the ones who have to interact with the public on a regular basis.

And because they deal with dozens of people day after day, they are worn out and jaded, but they won’t resign. And that’s because they can easily split their attention between their job and finding ways to milk the system that they have access to.

There isn’t really anything we can do about it, but it does deserve some serious thought from our lawmakers.

Any repetitive job, without incentives, especially the ones that are mandatory to social functionality, like Home Affairs and Sassa, will eventually lead to poor service delivery. And every time a politician at the top appears to be getting away with corruption, others will be tempted to do the same.

It’s a terrible combination that ultimately disadvantages us, who are not only dependent on these services, but who deserve a smooth and pleasant experience.

But are there any government employees who entered the profession because they actually love being of service, want to make a difference and want to do justice to the name “civil servant?”

Or are they all there because they have achieved the SA Dream and now spend their days in the lap of luxury employment?

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