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Dr Zizamele Cebekhulu-Makhaza | 11 July 2024

As South Africans brace for the significant changes that the Government of National Unity (GNU) is expected to bring about, we must advocate for national leadership appointed according to merit rather than political affiliation.

The government’s primary goal for the next five years should be to revitalise the economy, develop regulations that support the private sector, and drive job creation. For this, it needs to create a public sector that makes decisions for the good of our society rather than self-gratification or individual profit.

Cadre deployment in government has been disastrous for South Africa. Appointing public servants to positions of power primarily based on political affiliation has been detrimental to the country’s attempts to create a functional government that serves to protect the interests of the people, and the economy. The practice of cadre deployment must be eliminated with immediate effect.

Cadre deployment often allows for underqualified or inexperienced people to be appointed to the country’s most important positions. It has significant implications for government departments, state-owned enterprises (SOEs), and other areas of public responsibility.

For example, our SOEs are crucial for managing infrastructure and delivering essential services in key sectors such as energy, transport, and water supply – all of which are vital for the country’s development and the well-being of its citizens.

However, when politically-connected individuals lacking the necessary skills and experience are appointed to lead these types of enterprises, they often fail to fulfil their duties effectively. The results are poor decision-making and the overall mismanagement of state resources. Consequently, many critical SOEs have suffered untold damages from ineffective leadership.

Additionally, cadre deployment negatively impacts the administration and management of public-private partnerships (PPPs). PPPs are essential for leveraging private-sector expertise and investment to improve public services and infrastructure. Effective management of these partnerships requires a deep understanding of both public sector needs and private sector capabilities.

Cadre deployment also directly impacts a key pillar in South Africa’s socio-economic development plans: education. This has resulted in poor administration and ineffective educational policies which have hampered efforts to improve schooling outcomes among early-grades, and to align education and skills development with industry needs, further entrenching poverty, unemployment, and inequality.

Our children, youth, and workers suffer when educational reforms are driven by individual political agendas rather than long-term strategic goals. We must strengthen basic education, prioritise skills development according to the needs of our industries and businesses, and empower educational institutions to produce graduates equipped to meet the demands of our modern economy. Failure to do so will see local organisations continuously resort to importing the necessary skills and talent, even as unemployment remains persistently high in our country. We must grow our own wood to drive economic growth, innovation, and competitiveness in global markets.

Similarly, in the health sector, poor management of the National Health Insurance (NHI) could lead to significant national health challenges that disproportionately affect South Africa’s poor and most vulnerable citizens, deepening divisions in healthcare rather than bridging them.

Successful implementation of the NHI Bill will therefore require a competent and experienced guiding hand in the government. This means we urgently need an effective Department of Health headed by qualified medical experts, and not cadre appointment politicians and bureaucrats who are underequipped to address the country’s complex healthcare needs.

Whoever our new ministers and public leaders may be, we must commit ourselves as a nation to holding these appointees to a far higher standard than their predecessors. We must vet them from day one, and scrutinise their backgrounds to ensure they have the appropriate qualifications and experience to fulfil the duties within their particular portfolios. And if they lack the credentials, we must demand change.

Only then will we see the public sector deliver a fertile environment for sustainable socio-economic development, rising investment, and accelerated business growth.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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