Home South African Public service not a place for political appointments, says Ramaphosa

Public service not a place for political appointments, says Ramaphosa


President says senior administrators have sometimes been appointed for political reasons rather than their skills

President Cyril Ramaphosa. File picture: Phando Jikelo, African News Agency (ANA)

THE PUBLIC service has been hobbled by political interference and patronage and those who were not there to serve the interests of the people of South Africa should leave, President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

Writing in his weekly newsletter, the president listed meddling by the executive as one of the problems with the civil service the state needed to address.

“One of the areas to which we’re giving attention is known as the ‘political-administrative’ interface, where lines of accountability at the most senior levels of the state have become blurred. Political office-bearers such as ministers, MECs and mayors often veer towards getting involved in administrative matters that should be the responsibility of professional public servants,” he said.

“While the public service is required to implement the electoral mandate of the governing party and to account to the executive, they need to be able to do this work without undue political interference.”

Ramaphosa said senior administrators have been appointed for political reasons rather than their skills.

“Senior appointments are sometimes made on political considerations rather than expertise. This severely limits the capacity and effective functioning of the state.

“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.”

Ramaphosa said the perception that the country’s civil service was bloated was wrong, because it should be remembered that its ranks included nurses, teachers and police officers “who play an invaluable role in keeping the wheels of our country turning”.

The problem was rather that the payroll had come to include people who did not see the job as a calling.

“The civil service must be seen as a career destination of choice by those who want to make a difference in the life of their country, and not merely as a comfortable nine-to-five desk job or a place to earn a salary with minimal effort,” he said.

“Should some still harbour this view they should take advantage of opportunities to exit the public service to make way for those who are up to the task.”

Ramaphosa’s remarks come as he negotiates a major political crisis brought to a head by mounting evidence of corruption involving the procurement of material needed to handle the Covid-19 pandemic.

Parliament’s watchdog public accounts committee last week heard calls for Public Works Minister Patricia de Lille to step down amid allegations that she dictated the appointment of an unsuitable contractor to reinforce the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe as an emergency measure to curb the spread of the virus.

Ramaphosa cast his call for cleaner governance in the context of September being Public Service Month, but it follows a meeting of the national executive committee of the ANC at the weekend where his drive against graft met with pushback from his political foes.

– African News Agency (ANA)