SAnews.gov.za (Tshwane)

31 August 2014

South Africa: Call for Public Servants to Roll Up Sleeves, Serve

South Africa's public servants have been encouraged to roll up their sleeves and ensure that delivery systems and infrastructure is working to the benefit of all citizens.

"The Constitution requires that all people in South Africa be served by a professional public administration that works fairly, equitably and without bias while using resources effectively, efficiently and economically," said Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday.

Speaking at the launch of Public Service Month and of the first urban Thusong Service Centre at Maponya Mall, in Soweto, the Deputy President said public servants need to respond to peoples' needs, and be accountable, transparent and development-oriented.

"Public servants need to become change agents, enablers and facilitators. They need to collaborate with citizens to resolve complex service delivery challenges," Deputy President Ramaphosa said.

He said citizens have a legitimate expectation that services will be provided in a timely manner and close to where they live and where payment is required, these services should be affordable.

"Effective public administration is not a privilege in a democratic society. It is a fundamental right."

Public Service Month is an annual service delivery initiative celebrated in September that seeks to instil and rebuild good ethics, morale and pride in public servants as part of the Batho Pele Revitalisation strategy.

This year, celebrations will be held under the theme: "Reinventing the way Public Servants Work - Batho Pele".

Batho Pele, a Sesotho word which means "People First", is an initiative that was launched in 1997 by government to help transform the public service.

It was developed because democratic South Africa inherited a Public Service that lacked the skills and attitudes to meet the country's developmental challenges.

Public Service Minister Collins Chabane said they will focus the month on the frontline service delivery points.

During the Public Service month, multi-department task teams of senior managers will be deployed to frontline service delivery sites.

There will be expert-led roundtable engagements to mark Africa Public Service Day, and all activities will culminate in the Public Service Improvement Indaba.

Government has made strides since the advent of democracy. Among the initiatives introduced by government to improve public service include the introduction of izimbizo programme, the Presidential Hotline and service delivery checks at public institutions and Thusong Service Centres.

However, the Deputy President said there was also a need to revitalise the Batho Pele programme.

"We need to go back to the basics. We need to put our people first, treat them with respect and address their needs," he said, adding that the programme will be included in the strategic and operational plans of all government departments.

As part of the holistic approach, government will also institutionalise the Service Charter which commits public servants to serve citizens promptly, courteously and help them make the right choices in accessing services.

Earlier in the day, accompanied by Gauteng Premier David Mahkura and Johannesburg Mayor Parks Tau, Deputy President Ramaphosa and Minister Chabane were given a tour of the urban Thusong Service Centre.

Government has labelled the centre as the pulse of South Africa as it brings services closer to the people.

The Urban Thusong Services Centre is a one stop shop for various essential services provided by government through the departments of Labour, Home Affairs, Transport, the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Gauteng Department of Finance and Gauteng Enterprise Propeller.

The centres also eliminate duplication of infrastructure by government departments.

Piloted in 2011, the Maponya Mall Thusong Service Centre has become an invaluable resource to this community and services as it serves approximately 61 000 beneficiaries on a quarterly basis.

A consultant at the centre, Athi Toni, told SAnews that the centre is always busy.

"There is never a day that we are not full. As a result, we extend our own personal times and go the extra mile to service the people. We are not complaining because we are dedicated to service with pride," Toni said.

Another consultant with the NYDA said the community also visited the centre to enquire more about job opportunities and business funding.

"They bring their CVs which we capture on our database to try and get them employment. Others come for career guidance and business funding. We then call them and give them sessions on entrepreneurship," said Dududzile Mathunzi.

Community members who spoke to SAnews at the centre said the urban location is convenient and accessible. Most of them were there to get their Identity Document.

"It is very convenient because I only took a taxi for R7 to get here to access services from local, provincial and national government. I also get to do my shopping when I am done. I wouldn't have asked for any better service," said Gladys Mthombi, who was there to apply for an ID.

Other community members said the Thusong Centres empowers them with the necessary skills and training to better their lives.

However others raised concerns that the system was sometime down.

Deputy President Ramaphosa said government will look into improving the ICT to complement the state-of-the-art centres.

"The centres are meant to serve and attract our people to come with their complaints, concerns and their service needs."

This was also echoed by Premier Makhura who said the centres are part of improving the look and feel of the townships.

"We are revitalising our townships as part of the township economy... . We want to change them to economic hubs," Premier Makhura said.

Since the introduction of the centres 15-years-ago, 183 centres have been established in 107 local municipalities. Government envisages that more Thusong Service Centres will now be linked to shopping malls.

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