South Africa: Ramaphosa's New Dawn Is Here - but What It Will Take to Bring the Civil Service Back to Life?

President Cyril Ramaphosa announces his new cabinet on May 29, 2019.
analysis

A new president, a new Cabinet, but the same old civil service. The compliance culture that has evolved since 1994 has all but killed the developmental state. Deeply fearful of making mistakes in an environment where it is impossible not to make mistakes, officials minimise risk and maximise compliance. If they can just tick the boxes, they will be safe. Result: Zero experimentation and innovation.

President Cyril Ramaphosa became quite nostalgic as the 8 May 2019 election came to a close.

It reminded him, he said, of 1994 -- a time of new beginnings, new ways, new focus. In short, his New Dawn. But then, as now, what happens in practice depends to a large extent on the role of the state, and in particular how thousands of officials across all departments and spheres of government think, behave and relate to one another.

Ramaphosa's team is aware of this and discussions have already begun. And unlike during the Zuma era, these discussions seem to be asking the right questions.

Read as a package, the Constitution defines the South African state as a "developmental state". What this means is that the state has the primary responsibility for envisioning and implementing strategies...

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