THERE ARE INDICATIONS that sound judgment and balanced views are starting to gain the upper hand in the application of Government’s biased ideology. In the years following South Africa’s first democratic election – and especially under the leadership of Thabo Mbeki – people were appointed to key positions based on their struggle credentials and other ideological considerations, sometimes with embarrassing consequences for the country’s image worldwide. Manto Tshabalala Msimang’s beetroot and garlic stall at an Aids conference was probably the lowest point.
And the injudicious implementation of affirmative action has also cost SA dearly in many areas. One of the visual results is the deterioration in service delivery, especially at local government level. In some municipalities, basic services such as refuse removal and the maintenance of sewage systems have completely collapsed, resulting in shocking conditions for ratepayers.
The replacement of officials from the previous dispensation after 1994 by people who had to be compensated for past injustices was necessary and understandable. But the process went much too far, often without due consideration of the skills required. The appointment of people simply on the basis of politics and/or race turned former well-functioning establishments into chaotic wrecks.
Recently, there have been welcome signs from Government circles – for example, by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka – that other factors will in future be considered. Shiceka pulled no punches when he recently introduced his department’s Operation Clean Audit 2014 in Parliament. “The public has been complaining, and reports from the Auditor-General continue to report about poor management, double payments by officials, stolen goods... Let me tell you, this time around, die poppe gaan dans”.
The Treasury’s draft regulations on State buying also show evidence of a measure of common sense. For example, a maximum of 10 out of 100 points are allocated on the basis of a company’s black empowerment status if it bids for contracts of more than R1m. The other 90 depend on price. In some cases, other factors may also be taken into consideration, and contracts need not necessarily be granted to the bidder with the highest points.
Black businessmen who, according to Sake24, clearly expressed their dissatisfaction at the meeting when the regulations were discussed might have to start getting used to the idea that sound business principles are now also being applied to empowerment.