DG dilemma

President Jacob Zuma’s efforts to settle in and focus on delivering on the new government’s programme of action must overcome a fluid civil service that is operating with seven acting directors general nationally and four acting provincial directors general.

Compounding the difficulties are a number of recent suspensions and the resignations of other departmental heads.

The department of public services and administration information shows that the contracts of five more directors general expire before the end of the year.

Those whose contracts are ending include National Intelligence Agency director general Manala Manzini, whose term finishes at the end of August.

Transport director general Mpumi Mpofu’s contract has three months to run, South African Secret Service director general Hilton Dennis’s contract terminates at the end of November and health director general Thami Mseleku’s contract lapses at the end of December.

The situation is exacerbated by the suspension of two directors general: Xoliswa Sibeko of correctional services and Pam Yako of water and environmental affairs. Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela has resigned from the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department.

In addition, the Mail & Guardian has learned that Mpofu and justice director general Menzi Simelane could also be leaving their departments.

Analysts have warned that the absence of directors general could affect the efficiency and delivery capacity of some departments.

Tinyiko Maluleke, director of research at Unisa, said directors general are important for continuity. ”That is the person with the department’s institutional memory. When you don’t have a director general, it’s worse than not having a minister.”

The department of public services and administration’s spokesperson Sefako Nyaka said the government was confident that things were running smoothly, despite the vacancies. ”We’re concerned about the acting positions, but we don’t believe it has an adverse effect on the running of government.

”As much as we want to preserve institutional memory, people will always move to where the grass is greener and we can’t stop them moving.”

Maluleke said the ”residue” of the infighting from the ANC’s Polokwane conference had created mistrust that had spilled over to government. ”Because of that, we would be dreaming if we expected the hand-over to be smooth.”

But it could be an advantage for new ministers to find the director general’s position vacant, he said, as they then had a say in who should occupy the post.

”If I was a minister I would rather have an acting director general than have one appointed for me for the next five years. There needs to be some chemistry between the minister and the director general.”

This week Mpofu told the M&G that she was still in the dark about her position and Transport Minister S’bu Ndebele had to make the call. ”We still have three months and anything could happen,” she said.

Ndebele recently appointed his former KwaZulu-Natal provincial director general, Kwazi Mbanjwa, as an adviser and speculation is rife in government that Mbanjwa will take over from Mpofu. He said it was too early to talk about Mpofu’s future. ”I’m still new in the department and want to try to understand how things work. I’m not sure if she will be reappointed.” But he insisted that Mbanjwa had signed a five-year contract as ministerial adviser.

Simelane said no one had indicated to him that his contract might not be renewed.

Vincent Magwenya, Zuma’s spokesperson, said the president ”does regard the filling of posts as a matter of urgency for government to provide better service delivery”.

”Once ministers complete all processes and present their recommendations to him, he’ll sign off the appointments.”

Nyaka said: ”We’re worried about perceived and rumoured tensions between some new ministers and the directors general who held positions before they were appointed.

”The political-administrative interface is both a personal and professional relationship.”

In the Northern Cape Moira Marais-Marti has been acting provincial director general for almost three years.

The other acting provincial directors general are Mighty Mgidi (Mpumalanga), Roger Govender (KwaZulu-Natal) and Brent Gerber (Western Cape).

Nyaka said the delay in filling in positions was the result of the ”stringent criteria” that applied to senior appointments, which include interviews by a panel consisting of Cabinet ministers and the director general of the public service department, as well as a competency test. ”This is an elaborate process, but we cannot compromise on quality,” said Nyaka.

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Mmanaledi Mataboge
Guest Author
Matuma Letsoala
Guest Author

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