31 March 2022

Professor Gumede was addressing the UMP community and external stakeholders at a seminar put together by the university’s Research Division, under the topic: Organisation, Capacity and Functioning of the South African Government.

Opening his address, Professor Gumede said it is critical to assess the prospects of South Africa achieving its developmental goals as well as dealing with the challenge of state-building, particularly as development outcomes appear to be deteriorating amidst various efforts to capacitate and reorganize the government.

“The process of rethinking the organisation of the state began in 2005 when President Mbeki introduced the planning, monitoring and evaluation in government and President Kgalema Motlanthe administration continued with that.

President Zuma administration expanded those functions by creating more capacity: new ministries and more government departments. President Ramaphosa administration largely continued with what President Zuma administration was pursuing but it also resuscitated what President Mbeki had put in place,” he said.

UMPProfessor Estelle Boshoff introduced the speaker, Professor Vusi Gumede.

Measures to reorganise the state
The introduction of new government ministries over time show that government has been growing. Departments started at 27 and have grown to 46 in 2014 and then went down to 39 presently.

Professor Gumede notes that research shows that capacity has been put in place over time, but that certain areas seem stagnant or have low productivity.

“With regards to capacitating the public service, there are many institutions that have transformed over time. People are also paid relatively well in the public sector – professors and senior officials in government departments earn roughly the same.”

He argues that productivity is low in government. Though some departments have shown an improvement, there are sectors in which there have been a decline or departments that have simply remained stagnant.

“The issue could therefore be that there might not be enough people to do the work, or maybe there is simply no direction. It may be other factors too. It may be that you have the right people in wrong places or vice versa.”

UMPProgramme Director, Dr John Molepo.

Stagnant developmental outcomes

Professor Gumede says South Africa has not improved in terms of developmental outcomes. The decline started in 2008/2009.

“The challenge we have in South Africa is perhaps we have capacity in the wrong places and to correct the problem you need to reorganise and capacitate the organs of state. The fundamental issue that requires attention is what is causing a deterioration in the development outcomes when capacity seems to have been increased since 1994,” he adds.

“What matters most is the kind of capacity that the government has and how it is organised. There are specific skill sets that are needed at local government level that might differ from the expertise required at the provincial and national levels, he added.

“Though the solution remains unclear, the problems are apparent: the South African government has not sufficiently confronted apartheid colonialism directly and in order to address this successfully, the country is in need of a clear development agenda and issues of leadership.”

@ Story by Lisa Thabethe. Pictures ChristplPhoto.