by Thokozani Chilenga-Butao
The recruitment processes in government have been under debate and scrutiny for years. Allegations of nepotism, cadre deployment and the recruitment of unqualified candidates in government departments have been well documented.
Now, as South Africa deals with the Covid-19 pandemic, we see how previous recruitment practices have seeded the glaring weaknesses in government’s implementation of relief measures. It is time to seriously reconsider state recruitment as a source of reform for capacity and implementation.
Covid-19 has pushed countries and their economies and societies to the edge of their capabilities and resources, and South Africa is no exception. Moreover, it is increasingly clear that countries with resources and empathetic leaders, as well as strong public administration capabilities, have been able to implement quick and efficient relief measures.
In April, a month into national lockdown, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that there would be a number of relief measures available to families, communities and businesses. Key relief measures included a R350 top-up for social grant recipients, food parcels, Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) relief payments and business relief funds.
The announcement of these relief packages brought hope for many people. There was a sense that, although the government is imperfect, the president’s resolute stance on fighting the pandemic would somehow ensure assistance for those in need. But the spectre of the government’s weak capacity cannot be escaped during a pandemic. This was apparent at the end of May, when only 10 people had received the R350 top-up after approximately two months of national lockdown.
It is not the first time that the management and payment of social grants by the South African Social Security Agency (Sassa) have been delayed, causing more hardship for grant recipients. The daily reality for the vast majority of South Africans is hunger and malnutrition. Smith and Ledger, in their recent article, showed that fewer than 20% of households can afford to spend money on nutritious food. There is a desperate need to increase the government’s capacity while acknowledging the massive repair that a democratic government has to do. […]