Toxic power struggle hits public works


Depending on who you speak to, surviving the civil service in South Africa could be comparable to being the last person standing on Survivor

The once-popular reality television series places a group of people together on a marooned island with limited resources, which they are required to share. They then engage in a battle of wits and brawn as they compete in challenges where the winner could score anything from immunity from being voted out of the game to useful items such as lighters or even a meal, or similar.

In the civil service, the most dedicated South Africans should succeed. But often the wily and work-shy outlast the rest

Being in possession of an object as basic as a lighter, live chickens in a pen, or even plus-one access to a chocolate fountain on a yacht for the day could make you useful to someone who previously saw you as a liability. 

Theorists of the game always thought, because of the environment to which the group is confined, it would be the fittest, hardest-working and those who could guarantee wins in most challenges who would remain in the game until the end. 

In the civil service, one could be forgiven for thinking the most dedicated, hardworking and patriotic South Africans would succeed. But more often than not, it is the wily, work-shy, politically connected individuals who outlast the rest and push out honest and hardworking civil servants. 

There’s a lot more to this story.

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Sabelo Skiti

Sabelo Skiti is an investigative journalist.

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