MIKE SILUMA: Role of human resources crucial to Ramaphosa’s grand plan

Creating Ramaphosa’s ‘capable state’ requires human resources practices that enable it to happen

25 October 2020 - 00:09 By Mike Siluma

A thoughtful economist friend is wont to argue that President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration doesn’t have a structural reform problem, it has a human resources problem. The commitment to reforms that would remove constraints to investment, make it easier to do business and boost growth and jobs may be there. It’s the appetite and ability among those who people the public sector that’s often lacking. One legacy of state capture was that even apart from the cronyism and corruption, independent-minded public servants with initiative and experience weren't exactly encouraged. And though this administration might be committed to rooting out corruption, there’s little sign it’s changing the bureaucratic, compliance-driven public sector mindset — nor the habit of appointing underwhelming, inappropriate people to senior positions. Unblocking constraints and creating Ramaphosa’s “capable state” requires human resources practices — management, training and incentives — that enable it to happen. Speeches and strategic plans won’t do it.

I was reminded of my thoughtful friend when I had two contrasting experiences of the public sector. One was with the City of Joburg. I fear that when I mention it began with a disputed bill, I may be deluged with letters from fellow Joburg ratepayers who, like me, had their electricity cut off for nonpayment. I need not bore readers with the details of the quadruplicate charges for rates and refuse, nor the lost battle to get through to the city’s call centre during the hard lockdown, when it appeared to shut down altogether, or subsequently, when it supposedly has been open...

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