The antithesis of public service

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane
Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane
Image: Fredlin Adriaan

Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane is right about one thing.

Our province will not prosper unless we have a capable state that is responsive and able to deliver the most basic needs to people.

Speaking at the ANC’s provincial lekgotla yesterday, Mabuyane said we needed an innovative and inclusive growing economy, an enabling infrastructure network and an innovative high-value agriculture sector, among other deliverables.

“It is unquestionable that we cannot do more unless we improve the capacity of the state to deliver on its mandate,” he told the party’s leadership.

There is ample evidence of how government inefficiency continues to fail ordinary people every day.  

Take two examples in today’s newspaper alone.

The Nelson Mandela Bay council has rejected a report claiming, among other things, that it takes only 24 hours for city technicians to fix water leaks.

The overwhelming majority of residents in this city will attest, based on their own experiences, that such a claim cannot possibly be true.

Our infrastructure is so broken and the municipality so inefficient that it can take weeks, or even months for leaks to be fixed.

Similarly, this edition records the stories of families who have been let down by inefficiencies in public clinics — their only access to primary healthcare.

Both these examples are evidence of a state that is far from capable.

But as Mabuyane himself knows, the problem is a simple one — it is the people deployed or appointed to build a functioning and responsive government.

He told those at the lekgotla that the state required ethical public servants dedicated to delivering for the people.

In theory this is true. And although there are public servants who epitomise excellence, history has taught us that there are too many in the system are the antithesis of public service.

These are the people that need to be driven out of government.

But they won’t because their power, be it political or otherwise, is the very basis upon which those in leadership positions are chosen.