Is the South African Civil Service capable of Delivering?

Anecdotal evidence suggests that, if anything, standards have plummeted. The consequence is that the Middle Classes and the rich folks no longer rely on the government to provide for their needs. In reality in some instances, the situation is far worse.

 The Letters to the Editor’s Columns are replete with copious articles deploring the abysmal or non-existent service that they are receiving from one or more of the state departments or parastatals.

Like most people, I have become inured to the host of horror stories and skip such articles as they are now so commonplace. Alternatively we have ourselves have been subjected to appalling service and stopped caring or complaining. Like most people when a situation is immutable, they just want to get on with our lives. That is the centuries-old societal coping mechanism.

The examples provided below include the whole gamut of services from the Post Office to the Municipal rates accounts with their barely credible errors.

SA Civil Service#2

A number of recent examples have highlighted the extent of the dysfunction within the oxymoronic Service Providers collectively known as the Civil Service.

As an avid listener to 702 Talk Radio, I am aware that the Presenters are continually obtaining heart-felt reassurances by the various CEOs or senior manages of the various departments that the quality of the service that the particular department provides will be drastically improved within a short period of time. Within a year or less that official would either have been fired or moved laterally due to incompetence or more likely due some misdemeanour. The cycle of empty promises would then commence again. One can sense the Presenters impatience as the same tired reassurances are regurgitated yet again most likely to be reneged upon within a short period of time.

SA Civil Service#3

Firstly I will commence with three examples which illustrate rank incompetence and then an example which highlights corruption and finally one which represents a fatal threat to the Rule of Law.

A woman who I work with forgot to pay her Post Box rental in time and the box was locked. After making the payment, she requested that it be re-opened. That was six months ago. Every week she will phone the Post Office and every week the same tired promises will be made that the box will be opened promptly are given. She has laid complaints with every manager that she is able to but to no avail.

SA Civil Service#4

What more is this person supposed to do? She will never take legal action because it is too expensive. What are her alternatives?

Another colleague of mine experienced so many problems with his electricity bill that he elected to have a prepaid meter installed. Well………..that was the start of the problems. He would regularly visit the municipal offices in Sandton or phone them but with no response.

SA Civil Service#5How is one supposed to deal with such entities when their employees clearly do not care about their jobs or alternatively are incapable of performing them?


Another acquaintance was employed as a Consultant to reconcile the Entity’s Bank Account when they had in their employ a person whose job it was to perform that job. As that person had no understanding how to perform the job, the Entity employed both an incompetent full time employee who presumably drank coffee all day while the Consultant did the actual work.

SA Civil Service#6Of course the full-time employee was rated as an excellent employee in spite of her obvious inabilities to perform the job.

Two recent examples highlight a deeper malaise when corruption jeopardises the rule of law. A friend of mine was travelling with his two sons on the Moloto Road just outside Pretoria when he was pulled over by a traffic official for travelling at 127kms/hour. As he was cruising at 90kph, he objected vehemently. He was then forcefully informed that if he did not pay a bride, he and his kids would be locked up for the weekend!!

SA Civil Service#7What was his reaction! He opened his wallet and they took all his cash!

This example illustrates rank corruption of the worst kind that is common throughout the third world.

The final example is when a company’s vehicle was hijacked by taxi drivers who held the driver and occupants “hostage” at a taxi rank and demanded a bribe of R3000 to release the vehicle. When the police were summoned, they refuse to react and retrieve the vehicle.

Taxi Rank

This represents the thin end of the wedge: when the rule of law is not enforced by the delegated authority. That is when mob justice arises and ultimately prevails.

Such is the state of the government departments. Apart from SARS, all appear to be incompetent or a law unto themselves. The tipping point has been passed. With the weight of incompetent and corrupt officials, competent hard working employees turn a blind eye to even the most egregious examples of malfeasance just in order to survive in these organisations.

I rest my case.




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