While struggling state-owned enterprises such as Eskom and SAA are diminishing the state's capacity, the practice of parachuting poorly qualified, but politically connected, people into key positions will come to an end, President Cyril Ramaphosa wrote in his weekly newsletter.
The topic of Monday's letter was "a capable state".
Ramaphosa recounted being struck by the "need to significantly improve the capacity of the government that is meant to improve their lives" while walking through the streets of Kimberley and other towns in the Northern Cape two weeks ago, as part of the ANC's January 8th celebrations.
"It was disheartening to see that, despite progress in many areas, there were several glaring instances of service delivery failures," Ramaphosa wrote.
"Many of the places we visited struggle to provide social infrastructure and services simply because they have such a small revenue base. But, in some cases, elected officials and public servants have neglected their responsibilities.
"A common feature in most of these towns, which is evident throughout all spheres of government, is that the state often lacks the necessary capacity to adequately meet people's needs."
He said public representatives and civil servants derived their legitimacy from their ability to act professionally while serving the public and managing state resources to the benefit of the public.
"Poor coordination and alignment between departments and lack of effective oversight has meant that policies and programmes have not had the necessary impact on people's lives," Ramaphosa said.
"That is why this administration has prioritised the task of building a capable state."
He added that a capable state started with the people who worked in it.
"Officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise. We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage. There should be consequences for all those in the public service who do not do their work."
He also said a capable state meant state-owned enterprises needed to fulfil their mandates effectively and add value to the economy.
"State companies that cannot deliver services - such as Eskom during load shedding - or that require continual bailouts - such as SAA - diminish the capacity of the state. That is why a major focus of our work this year is to restore our SOEs to health. We will do this by appointing experienced and qualified boards and managers. We will be clarifying their mandates and give them scope to execute those mandates."
Ramaphosa said while South Africa faced "great challenges, we do not have a dysfunctional state".
For the building of a capable state to be successful, citizens need to get involved.
"We must all participate in school governing bodies, ward committees and community policing forums. It is on citizens that government will rely to advise us on the standards of public services in communities. It is on you that we depend to hold those who are failing you to account.
"Where government needs help, we should be prepared to draw on the skills, expertise and resources of the private sector and civil society. If we all work together to build a more capable and developmental state, we will be that much closer to realising the South Africa that we all want."