Exit Lungisa Fuzile, a model pub­lic ser­vant

Public Sector Manager - - Feature -

Af­ter 19 years of state ser­vice, Na­tional Trea­sury Direc­tor-Gen­eral Lungisa Fuzile is re­tir­ing. Trea­sury Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba has de­scribed him as “a model pub­lic ser­vant”.

“He leaves a legacy of a strong Na­tional Trea­sury that has a for­mi­da­ble team and a strong in­sti­tu­tional frame­work that will carry for­ward the man­date of the depart­ment.”

Fuzile's exit from the pub­lic ser­vice has sig­nif­i­cant mark­ers for all pub­lic ser­vants to ob­serve.

Let us re­flect on a few.

First, in re­cent times, few DGs have left the state with­out a cloud, ei­ther real or man­u­fac­tured. Once you leave un­der a cloud, no­body touches you. Fuzile leaves with the com­fort that no one will re­move him from speed dial.

Sec­ond, Fuzile leaves a depart­ment in­tact, an in­sti­tu­tion that will out­live him. Na­tional Trea­sury is a re­spected depart­ment (feared by the wicked) be­cause they have proven them­selves with their tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise, ex­cel­lence and abil­ity to man­age tran­si­tions and pol­icy re­align­ments. One re­cent project comes to mind.

When we were del­e­gated to ex­plore re­duced e-Tolls tar­iffs as rec­om­mended by the Gaut­eng Panel on e-Tolls, the Trea­sury team en­sured that the out­comes would not col­lapse the user-pay prin­ci­ple. With a com­bi­na­tion of sci­en­tific rigour, skil­ful ne­go­ti­at­ing and po­lit­i­cal aware­ness, we emerged with a R220 monthly cap, down from fre­quent users' R2 000+ bills.

Third, Fuzile com­mit­ted 19 years to the pub­lic ser­vice, mov­ing through the ranks to head Na­tional Trea­sury. This tells us a story of per­sis­tence and self­less­ness. For skilled bu­reau­crats who can eas­ily join the pri­vate sec­tor and triple their salaries, it says a lot of a man who re­mains within the state.

In Trea­sury, it is clear that the rul­ing party has done well to train pub­lic ser­vants who are well on their way to lead the bu­reau­cracy in the fu­ture. Many are highly ed­u­cated, as­sertive and po­lit­i­cally con­scious. Fuzile spoke his mind to au­thor­i­ties on what­ever he felt strongly about.

Fourth, Fuzile com­manded re­spect from his peers. In the Fo­rum of Di­rec­tors-Gen­eral, every­one knew that you wouldn't take chances with him, given his knowl­edge. Men of con­vic­tion lead by ideas, as he did.

Fifth, Fuzile was po­lit­i­cally aware and ap­pre­ci­ated the elec­toral man­date of the rul­ing party. Bu­reau­cracy is a po­lit­i­cal in­sti­tu­tion, not a so­cial move­ment. Po­lit­i­cal con­scious­ness does not equal po­lit­i­cal med­dling. Demo­cratic devel­op­men­tal states are po­lit­i­cal con­structs whose re­al­i­sa­tion de­pends on the re­silience of the bu­reau­cracy that out­lives elec­toral terms.

He leaves with cheers, but with some re­gret: “We need more busi­nesses ... to cre­ate jobs for our youth. I wish I was leav­ing at a time when the ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing sec­tor was func­tion­ing well … it would have been heart­warm­ing to leave at a time when in­equal­ity was fall­ing.” These state­ments are ev­i­dently po­lit­i­cal, mark­ers of con­vic­tion.

Fuzile is not dead. This is not a eu­logy. These lines are meant for those who re­main in the bu­reau­cracy. This is to re­mind us of long road ahead to­wards mas­ter­ing state­craft, a nec­es­sary fea­ture of the demo­cratic devel­op­men­tal state that must steer South Africa into a na­tional demo­cratic so­ci­ety.

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