Wonkie is certain that since South African president Jacob Zuma launched 17737, his Zuma hotline number, the number has been inundated with calls. Judging by the number of protests recently about service delivery or rather its non-delivery, by government it would be interesting to see the statistics of the queries processed and resolved through the hotline.
What the government in South Africa seems to lack is ironically enough exactly what customers expect from business services such as Mr Delivery – solid service level agreements that someone can be held accountable to. Sadly these measures and those accountable for them either seem not to exist or are well hidden in the state bureaucracy. And all this despite the South African taxpayers having to fund a whole new team for Performance Management and Evaluation in The Presidency headed by Minister Collins Chabane.
The strategy of denial that problems exist, or acknowledging them and then doing practically nothing significant about them seems to be the only definite policy in place in government for the moment – particularly to address major public concerns such as service delivery, HIV, job creation and crime in South Africa. This strategy has resulted in numerous protests such as the residents of Parys, a town situated on the banks of the Vaal River which had furious residents dumping their uncollected garbage outside the town’s municipal hall. It is also no surprise that there is serious violence accompanying some of the recent protests in townships near Balfour and Brits where the problem is significantly more serious.
There are certainly problems in the country and if the government wants to address them, they need to approach solving them in a structured manner. Applying the logic a management consultant would use when similar issues arise in business, government here needs to do the following – and urgently so:
1. Identify the issues and quantify them in measurable terms as best possible.
2. Instead of the Presidency simply blurting out buzzwords like ‘community engagement‘, ‘cooperation‘ and ‘working together‘, the state needs to confirm these measures with local authorities and community residents – get sign-off from all the stakeholders concerned.
3. The state then needs to work jointly with the community to put in place agreed, reasonable targets to resolve the issues in definitive time-frames. It is unreasonable for residents to expect these issues to be resolved overnight and it is equally unreasonable of government not to commit to what will be done and by when.
4. Communicate the targets to all the stakeholders concerned – i.e. not only to those that need to deliver, but also to all residents and citizens that will be affected. Knowing when things are expected to happen with clarity will certainly help diffuse the tension and allow officials to focus on delivery.
5. Execute and actually deliver against the agreed plan (obviously, but worth stating explicitly just in case)
6. Finally, President Zuma needs to act on his threat to remove non-performers based on the delivery against the agreed targets.
These are seemingly simple steps and hopefully The Presidency has a plan in place along similar lines. It would be even better if they actually intend to implement such a plan within Mr Zuma’s lifetime. If not yet, Wonkie is happy to offer its strategy consulting services to help get things going.
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