Despite progress in many areas, there are several glaring instances of service delivery failures in some South African towns, due to revenue constraints but also negligence, President Cyril Ramaphosa conceded on Monday.
In the latest edition of a weekly column he initiated last year, Ramaphosa said a tour of some towns in Northern Cape province during the ruling African National Congress’s anniversary celebrations a fortnight ago drove home the need to significantly improve the government’s capacity to improve lives.
“Many of the places we visited struggle to provide social infrastructure and services simply because they have such a small revenue base,” he wrote.
“But, in some cases, elected officials and public servants have neglected their responsibilities.”
He said poor coordination and alignment between departments and lack of effective oversight meant that policies and programmes had not had the desired positive impact.
“A capable state starts with the people who work in it. Officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise,” said Ramaphosa.
“We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage. There should be consequences for all those in the public service who do not do their work.”
Ramaphosa has faced increasing criticism for failing to live up to the optimism that greeted his assumption of South Africa’s presidency in February 2018, vowing to clamp down on the corruption that tainted his predecessor Jacob Zuma’s administration.
On Monday he said a major focus in 2020 would be restoring the viability of struggling state-owned such as power utility Eskom and national carrier South African Airways, some of whose former executives have been implicated in graft.
Ramaphosa insisted that while South Africa faced great challenges, “we do not have a dysfunctional state”, adding that tackling those challenges would take some time.
“None of this will happen overnight. Much of the work will not be immediately apparent,” he said. “But as we make progress, people will notice that government does things faster.”