Correctional Services said that “matters are under control” at Johannesburg’s Sun City Prison on Wed.
THE appointment of an ad hoc committee of the National Assembly to inquire into progress with service delivery and to make recommendations and an implementable action plan to improve the situation in the country is an opportunity for citizen action.
The committee is touring all provinces, and will take oral and written representations from interestedparties.
Three essential questions need to be addressed by South Africans in this exercise in participatory democracy offered to them. What do they want, why aren't they getting it, and how best can they get what they want?
It is likely that the various issues concerning what people want will boil down to desires in three basis categories: peace, progress and prosperity.
All of the rights guaranteed to all in the Bill of Rights are, in their various ways, aimed at the achievement of these goals.
Dignity and freedom from violence will feature high on the list of complaints of those who feel insecure. Equality and education will be sought by those who seek progress. Houses, healthcare and the full gamut of socio-economic rights, from food and water to roads and sanitation, will often be seen as the keys to prosperity by those who tax the committee with their complaints, ideas and suggestions.
Most of the rights promised will feature in the litany of woes that the committee will hear. Although the state is supposed to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights on offer in the Bill of Rights, the failure to make them part of the lived reality of ordinary people is at the root of much of the protest actions encountered around the townships in recent times.
The "why?" aspect of the failures to find peace, progress and prosperity for all will engage the committee as it gets to grips with the reasons for the failures.
Submissions already made by government departments and leading civil society organisations suggest that three areas of concern should be corruption, cadre deployment in the public administration, and lack of capacity to deliver services.
The widespread incidence of corruption in our public administration has to be pro-actively addressed.
Conquering corruption takes a change of mindset on the part of all players in society, from the leadership to the lowliest.
Setting up provincial commissions of inquiry into policing inefficiencies and working out solutions tailor-made to the conditions and circumstances of each diverse province is a constitutionally available mechanism that ought to be tried.
When criminals and the corrupt know that they will be caught and that there will be consequences because the criminal justice system is functioning optimally, the rate of corruption will dramatically decline.
The practice of cadre deployment in public administration, a process by which safe and loyal party hands are placed on all of the levers of power in society, is neither legal nor constitutional.
It is, however, a requirement of the national democratic revolution which still motivates the cadre deployment committees of the governing alliance. Cadre deployment in the public service has been struck down by the courts as it does not accord with the principles and values which govern our public administration.
Of course, this does not mean that cadre deployment of politicians in politics cannot take place. It is in the public administration that good human resource management practices and the maximising of human potential through career development practices are required. These are prerequisites for an efficient and effective, professional and ethical public service conducted accountably, impartially, fairly, equitably and without bias.
Those who suggest that the protests are evidence of faction fighting within the ANC-led alliance should ask themselves whether any of these values of the constitution have anything to do with the underlying causes of the faction fighting/protests.
The lack of capacity in the public administration is, in part, a result of the inability of the education system to turn out junior personnel who can adequately read, write and reason.
The recent matric results and the outcome of functional literacy testing of recently matriculated young people shows, for example, that of the 278000 black matriculants in 2007, only 42000 were able to pass a functional literacy test. Too many of those who did not pass have found their way into public service jobs.
Tackling corruption head-on and from the head down, banning cadre deployment and devising means of testing the capacity of civil servants, offering opportunities to correct weaknesses and creating means of efficiently jettisoning those who do not respond well to corrective measures, are ways of dealing with problems we have with progress towards ideal levels of service delivery.
It is vital that there be a high degree of public participation in the work of the committee. This is a rare opportunity to feed back to parliamentarians the input of ordinary people. Seize it.
lPaul Hoffman SC is with the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa.