Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Transformation of the South African Public Service, 1994-1997

Academic journal article Public Personnel Management

The Transformation of the South African Public Service, 1994-1997

Article excerpt

The contemporary history of South Africa, and especially the events leading up to and after the installation of the Government of National Unity, ushered in by the first democratic election of members of a new Parliament on 27 April 1994, are well known almost all over the world. These largely unprecedented and successful events were, as you might recall, widely applauded by the international community.

What is, however, not that well known, but which will be appreciated by students and practitioners of public administration alike, is the enormous impact South Africa's changing political face had on the South African public service.

It is widely accepted that a country's public service can be a stabilizing factor in its day to day state administration, even amidst changes in governments, and in this regard, it is especially gratifying to mention that the South African public service has, indeed, contributed enormously to the smooth transition of the country from the old to the new order

However, as much as a country's public service provides for stability, it can also, if left to its own devices, perpetuate policies which are not in line with the demands of the new political agenda. In South Africa's case, this was part of the problem. It was inevitable therefore that even before the transformation of the public service was embarked upon, a process of redesigning and restructuring of the machinery of government be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

At the installation of the new Government of National Unity, eleven systems of government existed within the national territory of the new South Africa, each located in a particular geographic area and served by no less than fifteen discrete administrations. These were:

(a) the central administration of the Republic of South Africa;

(b) the administrations of the four (4) provinces of the Republic;

(c) the administrations of the six (6) self-governing territories of Gazankulu, Kangwane, KwaNdebele, Kwazulu, Lebowa, and Qwa-Qwa; and

(d) the four (4) "independent states" of Transkei, Bophuthatswana, Venda and Ciskei.

Consequently, the interim Constitution [1993] made provision for a new State to be created out of the fifteen discrete administrations and the eleven separate public services each under its own statutes. These had to be replaced by one central government and nine [9] provincial administrations.

This, in essence, is rationalization, which in the South African context meant the process of moving from a fragmented and dysfunctional system of administration, created during the apartheid era, to one which constitutes a balanced, integrated unity in which every component is essential for the effective functioning of the whole. The process is obviously closely linked to transformation and reform, while in sequence rationalization precedes the other two. This is dealt with in some detail in the first part of this article.

Rationalization as a Precursor to Transformation and Reform

As a precursor to transformation and reform, the process of rationalization, which was mandated by the interim Constitution [1993], had to be effected as quickly and with as little disruption of services as possible.

The rationalization process covered five major areas, which required urgent formulation and application of appropriate policy directives at administrative and technical levels:

(a) First and foremost, establishing a new legal framework for administration

The interim Constitution [1993] provided the essential provisions and broad guidelines necessary to give direction to the new public service. However, to give effect to the constitutional provisions and guidelines, a legal framework had to be put in place dealing with the staffing and administration of the new public service.

To prevent a legal and administrative vacuum, an interim framework was promulgated which amended the existing prescripts (Acts, regulations and coded instructions) as the basis of a new body of prescripts. …

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