No more excuses
The state must stop evading responsibility by blaming its failures on apartheid, said Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel.
"We fail our people repeatedly. Nineteen years into democracy, our government has run out of excuses," the respected former finance minister told the government leadership summit meeting in Pretoria yesterday.
Senior government leaders at the summit, including Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, promised to improve government efficiency and root out graft.
''We cannot continue to blame apartheid for our failings as a state. We cannot plead ignorance or inexperience," Manuel said.
His frank comments were made as some government officialscontinue to take refuge in blaming the chronic state of national affairs - such as violent service-delivery protests and horrific instances of police brutality - on "the legacy of apartheid".
President Jacob Zuma told councillors and municipal managers at the SA Local Government Association conference in September: "There is a common tendency to look at government at all levels as if those who are governing have brought the problem, instead of deep-seated challenges [from] the past.''
But Manuel said yesterday that, after "four consecutive terms" of ANC rule, excuses should be a thing of the past.
"For almost two decades, the public has been patient in the face of mediocre services.
"Perhaps in 1994 we would have said we don't have the experience ... it is very important that we take responsibility for our actions now.
"We can no longer say it is apartheid's fault.
''There is no [PW] Botha regime looking over our shoulder - we are responsible ourself."
He said the National Development Plan, adopted by the ANC at its Mangaung elective conference in December, advocated accountability, professionalism and "being neutral in relation to party-political contestation".
Manuel said there was a "worrying blurring of lines of accountability", brought about by the appointment of state officials through political patronage. This led public servants to believe that they were accountable to the ruling party, and not to the government department or other state entity employing them.
"No matter how you were appointed, no matter who appointed you, you are not accountable to the ruling party. You are civil servants who are meant to serve all citizens, irrespective of [their] political persuasion."
Manuel said the high turnover of directors-general in the public service was worrying.
"The average department has [had] about four directors-general in 10 years. This figure is even higher at provincial level. No private company, academic institution, or even a village football club can thrive with that sort of turnover."
Motlanthe blamed the high turnover of directors-general on tensions between them and their political principals - ministers.
He told the meeting: "The nature of the relationship between the political authority and the administrative arm of the state must always be clearly defined . The ensuing strained relations between ministers and directors-general invariably see the latter leave the department and the government."
Sisulu told journalists that she was setting up an anti-corruption bureau.
She was responding to public protector Thuli Madonsela, who disclosed at a briefing on the sidelines of the summit that she had been disappointed to discover recently that a municipal manager remained in his job despite being caught with his hand in the till.
Sisulu said: "We are looking at the legalities on the interface between ourselves and law-enforcement agencies.
"[Today] we will be in contact with the municipal manager from Mpumalanga who was found to have blatantly [stolen] money from the public purse . we will deal with that."