September is Public Service Month in South Africa. This year’s month-long event takes place under the theme Reinventing the way Public Servants Work: Batho Pele "Putting People First".
During this period South Africans are asked to reflect on the public service and its ability to deliver quality services that meet their expectations in the spirit of the government’s Batho Pele programme. Batho Pele – a Sesotho phrase – has been adopted by the public service as part of its drive for excellence in service delivery, and commitment to continuous improvement.
Activities during the month aim to celebrate and recognise public servants and their contribution to the lives of ordinary people. These activities include service delivery exhibitions; unannounced visits to frontline service delivery sites; and a series of roundtable engagements to mark Africa Public Service Day, which took place on 23 June.
Public Service Month 2014 will also focus on the promotion and implementation of the Public Service Charter which was adopted in 2013.
All activities will culminate in the Public Service Improvement Indaba, which takes place on 29 and 30 September in the North West province.
Addressing challenges and adding value
The month kicked off in Soweto on 31 August at the official launch of the Maponya Thusong Centre with the deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, public service minister Collins Chabane, Gauteng premier David Makhura and Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau in attendance.
The centre is part of the government’s Urban Thusong concept, which aims to bring services closer to where people live. It offers access to various essential services such as identity documents, birth certificates, UIF or social grants, all under one roof.
“If we hope to address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality, the public service has to re-invent itself,” said Ramaphosa at the launch.
“It needs to find new ways of adding value and effecting change. Our Constitution requires that all people in South Africa be served by a professional public administration that works fairly, equitably and without bias.”
Batho Pele is not always the case
Sadly, the noble ideals of Batho Pele don’t always shine through. In recent months people across the country have risen up to protest poor delivery of basic services – a number have lost their lives in these new struggles.
Corruption, maladministration and inefficient governance have much to do with the low levels of service delivery, if the reports that continue to arrive at Corruption Watch are anything to go by. The increasing expressions of dissatisfaction by South Africans in the form of petitions, service delivery protests, and more, are not only about service delivery – they are also about the failure of public servants to remain accountable to the needs of the very people that they are meant to serve.
“Public Service Month, which we are launching today, seeks to instil and rebuild good ethics, morale and pride in public servants. It also puts emphasis on improving the way public servants work in their quest to deliver quality services to citizens,” said Ramaphosa.