Presidential hotline can be successful

THE launch of the presidential hotline recently was greeted with much jubilation, but now people are no longer so enthusiastic.

The intention of making the Presidency accessible to the people is noble, particularly since the previous regime of Thabo Mbeki was viewed as remote, inaccessible and interested in foreign rather than domestic affairs.

To label a policy good or bad it is important to first seek clarity on what makes it so. Generally a policy is good when it benefits society and bad when it fails to benefit society.

This raises the key issue of implementation. A policy can be good in formulation and intention but still fail to produce results because of poor implementation.

But this does not imply that all policies that fail do so because of poor implementation. At times the policy itself is poorly formulated and with unclear goals.

One has to look at the number of people expected to call the hotline. If there are too many for the available lines it could have two effects:

l Some people will never get through, so their concerns will not be heard;

l People will simply lose interest because the operation is too time consuming.

The best way forward in this case is for the project to be decentralised to reduce congestion on the lines to manageable proportions. The danger, however, is that the provincial officials who people are unhappy with are likely to sabotage the project.

The president should ensure that independent staff man the hotline, thereby ensuring that the intended purpose is realised.

Ricky Mukonza, University of Pretoria