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Football.Bookworm.Cinematic Music. "The greatest contribution from Africans will be to give the world a more human face" Bantu S. Biko,

A Service In Public Interest

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One of the many ways in which sympathisers of the capitalist agenda were able to tame and eventually defeat their arch nemesis – communism – was through the drumming of the idea that it, communism, would threaten their private space. In a sense that it would result in all things private being nationalised, even if it would be for the well being of everyone. Fortunately for those of the capitalist persuasion private sector operations have been able to with stand any kind of assault thrown at them. The government as a political collective elected by the nation through, hopefully a credible and bloodless democratic process, has a duty imposed to provide the basic requirements of its citizens through its public service initiatives and programmes. That means that the state has to ensure that there aren’t any impediments that hamper the possibility of basic schooling taking place, which is grade 1 – 12. They also have to be certain that public health facilities are equipped adequately to deal with the demand that emanates from people who need such intervention because they aren’t able to afford private health care. Another quintessential component in the machinery of an effective and satisfactory public service programme is the packaging and distribution of remunerations of state employees across the board. Because a lack of appreciation and professional treatment of public servants is as good as taking care of the outer part of  a vehicle and neglecting its engine. It is such indifferent conduct from the government that has led to its workers downing tools and embarking on industrial action, even in sectors which are of a matter of life and death, literally.


In the second quarter of 2007 teachers of public schooling embarked a strike. Chief among  their concerns was a  12% increment on their salaries and benefit packages. The strike had a devastating effect on the academic outlook of pupils of that year, particularly the grade 12s. The pupils had to contend with being idle for 4 months while the state and teachers unions fought their disputes and at the end it led to pupils having to work under pressure to complete the academic expectation of their curriculum. Many a times have been made to bear the brunt of angry parents who want their children to be taught regardless of the teachers’ grievances. And the charge that is put across is that the teachers easily go on strike because their won children attend private schools. Perhaps there is some truth in that stamen but at the same time questions need to be asked of the public schooling process and what leads the said teachers not to allow their children attend those schools. The answer lies in the fact that the public schooling (read township schools) system is pathetically administered and its agents of education, the teachers, are not treated with the respect that their profession demands.


The former minister of health, Dr Manto Tshabalala Msimang, once visited the Chris Hani Baragwanath hospital and she said that she was amazed at the filthy and decaying state of the hospital. Her comments were true in a sense that how would she, as the minister of health, be expected to known how public hospitals are when she uses private health care for herself. In the past month the health practitioners have occasionally refused to attend to the sick in various provinces across the country because the government has failed to implement the contentious OSD agreement. In fact in KwaZulu Natal province the doctors took to the streets and have since had their contracts of employment terminated. This will put strain on the already burdened public health care structure. And the conduct of the health practitioners has to be understood and contextualized because the striking workers will not be given a preferential treatment should they fail to pay their monthly bonds and other expenditure commitments they have tied themselves to. The only way the plight of health workers would be adequately is if all members of government were compelled to make use of public hospitals when their lives are on the line. Unfortunately the poor people have no choice and have to accept whatever they can get. 

Every component of the public service machinery is necessary. The national broader caster, SABC, is in a disarray and requires a 2 billion bail out plan from the state. The existence of the SABC is vital, especially to those people who can not afford alternative and luxurious media for information. Part of the SABC’s mandate is to cater for news and various programmes in all official languages and it is an expectation not required to be fulfilled by private media. The public broad caster must be an object and credible source of information for the nation and not be manipulated by political role players as the case has been for a while. Information centres at the disposal of the public also play a critical role in the upliftment of the society. Libraries and other information centres have to be fully functional and equipped to assist people in accessing information without having to pay more than their basic requirement. If such interventions are stopped that would amount to a form of class prejudice at the very least.

The public service sector needs to be aided from its decaying state. The public servants must be valued and that must be reflected in the salary packages that they take home. The most destitute of our country depend on state intervention to ensure that they are able to survive their daily strife. At the same time the public servants themselves have to be pragmatic and not hold the nation to ransom with with industrial action. Such extreme measures have to be relied upon when every other avenue has been exploited. A dysfunctional public service sector negates and crushes any strides gained in providing effective and meaningful service delivery to the many communities who need that service. An impotent public service leads to a failed and ‘bananarized’ state.

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