An analysis of the management framework for development in the South African public sector
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Development must be contextually understood. Not all persons will react similarly to circumstances in their environment. Their behaviour in certain situations will be determined by a wide variety of factors, including their upbringing, their cultural framework within which they reason and function, for example. Similarly government will react within the contextual framework composed of its predominant ideological perspective, its understanding of history, its perception of the dominant viewpoint regarding the matter in society, and so forth. South Africa's economic limitations have placed serious constrains on the country's ability to formulate and implement sustainable development policies. One of the extremely negative side-effects of this reality was the continuous cash flow problems experienced by various Provincial and National authorities in the country, where the National Government was eventually required to bail them out in terms of Section 100 of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. The implications of this were that these authorities surrendered their autonomy in terms of the Constitution to the central government. South Africa is a "developing" country, which made it a bit more 'unequal amongst equals' in the global economic structure. In this regard it is essential for the country to take cognisance of the reality of the global village in which it find itself; characterised by the domination of a single remaining superpower, a declining ability of the physical environment to sustain life and a rapidly changing world-order. Limited economic resources to facilitate development caused various socioeconomic problems in the country. Amongst these are the enormous gap between the rich and the poor in the country. This reality is threatening to explode and plunge the country in anarchy. A declining infrastructure is further eroding South Africa's ability to construct meaningful economic growth. A decrease in the role and function of religion and churches in the country has gradually eroded the moral fiber of society. The result is a South African reality characterized by a staggering crime rate and the transformation of the normative foundation to guide management activity in the South African public service. Other characteristics of the South African environment are persistent racial divisions, inequality and staggering unemployment. The question that might be asked is how responsive the political set-up in South Africa is to the fostering of effective management of development. The answer to this issue can be formulated by evaluating the South African government's response to the environmental challenges in the country. A very positive aspect in the political set-up of the South African society, that undoubtedly foster improvement in the quality of life of ordinary South Africans, is the massive increase in the levels of public participation in the decision - and policy-making processes of the country. Contemporary involvement of the community by means of continuous and extensive road shows and open meetings with the community is a massive improvement on the traditional involvement in the form of party-political meeting during election campaigns and a formal speech at the opening (or launch) of one or the other project. Aggressive union activity, and the concept of rolling mass action have also fostered a culture of participation. However, on the negative side it is worth mentioning that a growing feeling of apathy can be detected, especially amongst the youth, and that the level of active participation in the political process is relatively low, and ever declining. The euphoria of the freedom struggle, and eventual victory over the oppressor have come and gone, in spite of active attempts on the side of the government to keep these feelings and emotions alive (mostly for party-political gain). These feelings have been replaced with despair in the face of ongoing unemployment and poverty. The structural management capacity of the public sector to realise ambitious development progress has improved - although a move away from bureaucratic management structures will surely benefit this ability. The introduction of a performance management framework, multi-year planning and improved accountability measures have strengthened the ability of the South African public sector to facilitate effective development management. However, aspects that will certainly impact negatively on the ability of the public sector to effectively management development initiatives are also numerous: o A serious lack of financial management competency and expertise. o The 'affirmative-action-at-all-cost' policy, where desperately needed expertise are often pro-actively chased away to make way for politically acceptable appointments. The same goes for indiscretional political appointments at high and senior organizational positions. These days just about all personnel-related matters in the public sector are based on 'representivity' - even personnel performance appraisals. If these kind of appraisals do not reflect the racial composition of a the staff component of a department, the process is stopped for further investigation. o Persistent racism - white public officials who, often unconsciously, still believe that black workers are inferior and their contribution less impressive. In some instances white public officials also hampers effective service delivery because they will still advantage whites at service delivery points. o However, and this point the government denies flat-out: Black-an-white discrimination is also thriving. Newly appointed black managers often have very deep anti-white feelings, and are barely able to hide these preferences. o Bureaucratic, organic organizational structures. Several of South Africa's service delivery agencies are still involved in a process of re-structuring seven years after the 1994 general election. More often than not this 'restructuring' refers to a state of structural mess - with meaningful service delivery a practical impossibility. Service delivery in South Africa has been enhanced by renewed emphasis on quality management and a drive towards increased transparency and accountability. The formal structural framework for service delivery was improved by introducing various Service Delivery Charters and the White Paper on Transformation of Public Service Delivery. However, the official service delivery agencies are neglecting to properly implement these initiatives. So, has South Africa managed to achieve sustainable development? There are two perceptions regarding the answer to this question. The one holds the view that, in spite of the sincere and honest efforts of government to take the plight of ordinary South Africans seriously during the policy-making process, is it still hard to conclude that the ideal of sustainable development has been realised in South Africa. A lot of houses have been built; the focus on clinical services has ensure that primary health care services are now more readily available to ordinary South Africans - yes; for example But, perhaps the most damaging reflection on the post-1994 government's performance in respect of development, come from the anti-apartheid veteran of so many years, Helen Suzman when she stated that while I, like others, am greatly relieved that South Africa is rid of all the heinous laws of the apartheid regime and immensely pleased at no longer being a citizen of a pariah country, my high hopes of a good performance by our new government have not been realised. "Government has failed to deliver on its promise of 'a better life for all.' True, I, as a privileged white, continue to live at the same high standard, but equally true, the standard of living of the majority of blacks have deteriorated." The proof of the pudding is in the eating. The ultimate test to determine whether or not development has realized, for the purposes of this study, was the question of whether or not there was an improvement in the quality of life of ordinary citizens. The other viewpoint is best expressed by The Economist of 24 February 2001 at the end of a series of articles which aim was to analyse the state of affairs in South Africa seven years after the 1994 general elections. The author concluded that, whatever its shortcomings today, (South Africa) is a far happier place than it used to be, and a far happier place than it might have been. In time, it may yet fulfil the promise of the Mandela years."