ANC government must build a capable and trustworthy state

Premier David Makhura was at pains to emphasise the new dawn as if he was not there when things went horribly wrong. /Thomas Chauke
Premier David Makhura was at pains to emphasise the new dawn as if he was not there when things went horribly wrong. /Thomas Chauke

Gauteng premier David Makhura delivered his state of the province address at the start of the sixth administration.

The ANC has run the province for 25 years, just as it has been at the helm of national government.

At the start of every subsequent ANC administration, listening to the state of the province and of the nation addresses, it is easy to get the impression that it is always a new political party taking over.

The ANC needs to disabuse itself of the thinking that it will fix the economy when it is breaking, rather than building the state.

State-led development and economic planning is a pipe dream, because this requires a capable state, run by a professional and ethical bureaucracy, with a political leadership that is accountable and transparent and respects the rule of law.

The ANC runs national government, runs eight out of the nine provinces and a majority of the country's 278 municipalities, yet governance under the ANC is disjointed, incoherent and dysfunctional.

But in the same way that President Cyril Ramaphosa has reiterated that his administration is a departure from the past, Makhura was at pains to emphasise the new dawn as if he was not there when things went horribly wrong.

In his own words, "The new dawn should usher in the total renewal of the public service and fundamental change in the way citizens experience governance, including strengthening accountability and integrity of public officials and public servants, so that we can avoid fatal disasters such as the Life Esidimeni tragedy."

But the Life Esidemeni tragedy, which was a dereliction of duty of the highest order, an inhumane display of negligence and a total disregard of the principle and obligation of accountability, happened under Makhura's watch.

He says: "The new dawn must inspire us to recoil from despair and wake up from the nightmare of a bleak future, so that we can rebuild the South Africa of our dreams. We had stopped dreaming about a better future due to living through a nightmare of seeing parts of our democratic state being captured in broad daylight in pursuit of greed and rabid private interest."

However, the SA is in a state of disrepair, because his party, the ANC, stood by watching as the state was being captured by and sold cheaply to the friends of its former president.

He continues: "The new dawn must also inspire the young people of our province to dream big... Through education young people will be empowered to play a meaningful role in society and pursue their dreams, regardless of the circumstances of their birth."

Although Makhura can boast that the Gauteng government has achieved 95% universal access to grade R, it does not address the quality of the education provided in the country's schools.

What the ANC government seems to be missing is that, if it wants the state to take the lead on restarting the economy, on job creation and in encouraging other social partners to buy into the social compact, it must build a capable and trustworthy state.

The other imperatives of improving life for citizens and creating an environment conducive for them to pursue their aspirations and exploit opportunities, rest on the restoration of good governance across the state.

The underperformance, both nationally and in the province - which remains the country's economic hub and richest province, coupled with high unemployment - makes fixing the economy more urgent.

In this context, it is tempting for leaders like Makhura and Ramaphosa to think that the role of the government is primarily to create jobs and grow the economy.

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