Southern Africa: Cutting Numbers of Provinces and Government Departments - a Good but Wildly Difficult Idea


It is becoming increasingly apparent that there are big moves afoot to change the structure of the state. This weekend, two Sunday newspapers carried reports of how government departments will be changed, the number cut down, and the Cabinet reduced. There is also talk of the number of provinces being reduced. While it is highly likely that these changes would improve governance, they also carry the potential for severe political turmoil.

Many people who benefit from the current system would lose out, and are likely to resist these changes. Making these changes actually happen would depend on immense political will and the support of many constituencies in our society.

The case for the government to be reconfigured and the number of departments to be cut seems overwhelming. There are currently 34 Cabinet Ministers, all with deputy ministers, and directors-general and department heads - and all with a fleet of expensive cars, security, and many other trappings of power. The structure of our state, with government work being done in Pretoria and Parliament sitting in Cape Town, means that there is immense duplication, and travelling costs go through the roof. In a country with so many pressing needs, and so many...

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