Report on Government
20 December 1994
Setting up government
The President and the Deputy Presidents were sworn into office on May 10, 1994.
Ministers and Deputy Ministers as well as the Premiers and Members of the Provincial Executive Councils were also sworn in their positions.
In all instances portfolios were distributed in a way which, among other things, would ensure the effective participation of the minority parties in governance.
At the national level and in seven provinces, the ANC is the majority party within the Governments of National and Provincial Unity.
The ANC is the largest minority party in two provinces.
Consequent upon the appointment of a non-party Minister of Finance at the national level, the allocation of the National Party has still to be brought to its full strength with the appointment of an additional NP cabinet minister.
Government policy framework
Soon after its was constituted, the Government of National Unity (GNU), addressed the issue of a common policy framework that would guide its work, regardless of the party distribution of the government portfolios.
Agreement was reached that the Reconstruction and Development Programme be adopted as the policy of the GNU, subject to further Cabinet discussion on the details of the RDP.
The first major policy statement made by the GNU reflecting this consensus was the President’s State of the National Address delivered in parliament towards the end of May, 1994.
This was subsequently followed by another major policy statement of the GNU, this being the President’s Statement to Parliament at the conclusion of the first 100 days of the GNU.
Subsequent White Papers and major legislation have reflected the objectives contained in the RDP.
Other legislation has been of a technical nature, relating to routine matters, bringing existing legislation in line with the new constitution or bringing the institutions of the old, such as TBVC and “self-governing” into the new state structures visualised in the Interim Constitution.
Government of National Unity
As provided for in the constitution, the Cabinet of the GNU has taken the majority of its decisions by consensus. Agreement has however been reached that, in the event that consensus cannot be reached, to ensure that there is effective government, decisions can also be taken on the basis of a simple majority.
In the event of t he latter, the minority parties would then have the possibility to project their positions publicly, without this signifying that there is a split in the GNU or that it is unable to function as a cohesive unit.
As required by the Constitution, all Ministers are accountable to and are subject to supervision by the President, regardless of the party from which they are drawn.
On the basis of the experience that has been accumulated in the first seven months of the GNU, the President is elaborating ways and means by which to ensure the greatest effectiveness with regard to the implementation of the objective stated above.
As can be expected, members of the GNU have had to spend a considerable amount of time settling into their new areas of deployment, thus limiting the time available to them to restructure their departments and incorporate new personnel to assist them, especially with regard to working on new policies aimed at implementing the RDP.
This process of settling in has included familiarisation with composition and the on-going programmes of the departments, daily supervision of the departments, as assessment of what needs to be done to structure and motivate them so that they can implement the RDP and elaboration policies that are practicable, especially given the financial constraints imposed on the GNU by the structure of public finances inherited by the GNU.
Ministers have also had to carry out daily supervision of the departments and, in many instances, have had to involve themselves in many “fire-fighting” exercises.
The State Budget is one of the principal instruments in terms of the implementation of the government policy. It enables government to address both its revenue and expenditure requirements. At the same time, it is used as a means to impact on macro-economic policy.
For these reasons it is important that we understand some of the fiscal parameters within which the GNU is operating.
To ensure that the State Budget does not impact negatively on the economic growth and development, the GNU has committed itself to ensuring that:
- Current expenditure relative to the GDP should decrease on a continuous basis. For the current Fiscal Year, this stands at 28.3 per cent of the GDP.
- Unless greater amounts are spent as capital expenditure, revenue relative to the GDP should also decrease on a continuous basis. For the current Fiscal Year, this stands at 23.8 per cent of the GDP.
- The deficit before borrowing should also be brought down to a level which ensures that the country does not get caught in the debt trap. For the current Fiscal Year, this stands at 6.6 per cent.
In simple terms, this means that there is an upper ceiling to the resources available to the State to carry out its part of the Reconstruction and development Programme. In absolute terms, these resources can only increase as a result of growth in the economy.
These figures should also be considered together with the fact that 91 per cent of the government expenditure is absorbed by three items, viz:
- wages and salaries;
- welfare; and,
- servicing the public debt.
This expenditure pattern, superimposed on the macro-economic framework indicated above, imposes a level of rigidity which makes it even more difficult to find the funds within the Budget which can be channelled to sustainable development.
The transformation challenges that the GNU has therefore been grappling with are:
- Reprioritisation of the existing budgets to enable them to focus on the achievement of the RDP objectives;
- Belt-tightening, which has included the reduction of salaries of the President and other senior elected representatives;
- Reorganisation of state assets and enterprises in a manner that is consistent with the objectives of the RDP, and aimed at raising additional revenue for the government which could be used, among other things, to reduce the public debt;
- Ensuring strict monitoring of the disbursement and utilisation of funds at both national and provincial levels; and,
- Working on short, medium and long-term plans to reduce the amounts spent on wages and salaries and the public debt, so as to increase the proportion allocated to capital and development expenditure.
There are three inescapable conclusions that have to be drawn from this objective economic reality that the GNU has inherited from over four decades of apartheid rule, namely that:
- There are no large resources that can be found within the Budget in the short and medium term, with which to address the RDP objectives;
- Such resources as are available should be used in a strategic manner to address clearly defined objectives; and,
- The resuscitation of the economy, to set it on a sustainable path of high growth, must be accepted as an urgent and principal objective of the GNU and the centre-piece of the RDP.
Machinery of government
The GNU has, of course, had to ensure that it has properly functioning machinery of government. This has meant the establishment of Ministries and Departments where none existed or their restructuring where necessary.
Among the ministries which are still being established are those of Defence, Safety, and Security, Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, Public Service and Administration, Sports and Recreation and Labour.
Work is also proceeding with regard to the establishment and/or restructuring of Departments. An important element of this process has been the appointment of the most senior staff, including Directors General.
The speed with which this restructuring could be completed has been affected by demands of transparency and legal accountability which result in a protracted process of appointing staff.
An important part of the process of ensuring the establishment of effective government concerns the sharing of responsibilities between the national and provincial governments. Because of the volume of work involved, this has taken a considerable length of time to implement, sometimes leading to frustration at the level of the provincial governments. As part of the response to these challenges and in keeping with constitutional requirements:
- An Inter-Governmental Forum has been established to ensure continuous coordination between the central and provincial governments;
- The relevant national ministers also participate in the fora with the provincial counterparts;
- A Finance and Fiscal Commission to investigate and make recommendations on the future on inter-governmental financial and fiscal relations has been established; and,
- Provincial Service Commissions are in the process of being established.
Local government elections
The GNU has also been engaged in preparations for the local government elections, now scheduled for October 1995, which, through the creation of elected local governments, will complete the process of the establishment of a democratic system of government in the country.
As part of these preparations, the Local Government Elections Task Group has been established to oversee the local government elections.
It has also taken time to implement the Local Government Transition Act of 1993, intended to replace the former racially and ethnically based structures of local government with the interim representative and non-racial structures.
Transformation of the public service
Related to the whole issue of the establishment of effective government is the question of the transformation of the public service. In this regard, the GNU has been attending to the following matters in particular:
- The integration of 11 former public services;
- The establishment of uniform conditions of service and employment for all public servants, consistent with the provisions of the Constitution;
- The approval of 11,000 applications to various government posts particularly to address the fundamental question of redressing gender and racial imbalances within the public service;
- Instituting processes, including restructuring the Public Service Training Institute, aimed at enabling the training and retraining of public sector workers so that to the implementation of the Reconstruction and development Programme; and,
- Elaborating guidelines and programmers for the transformation of the civil service as a whole so that it is non-racial, non- sexist, efficient and responsive to the public, as visualised the Constitution. All this brings to the fore the fact that the state is an employer of large numbers of people, totalling 1.2 million public servants.
As an employer, the GNU has been and is involved in complex negotiations with the Public Service Central Bargaining Chamber involving a variety of matters, including the transformation of the public service, rationalisation, salaries, including low basic wages and the reduction of high earnings differentials within the service.
In this regard, the GNU faces a difficult situation characterised by:
- The need to reduce expenditure on wages and salaries;
- The need to raise the earnings of the lowest paid and to abolish gender and race disparities;
- The need to increase the size of the public service to change its gender and race composition, while having limited possibilities to reduce the size of the existing public service, owing to entrenched constitutional provisions guaranteeing job security; and,
- The need to channel a larger proportion of public funds into capital rather than recurrent expenditure, to address the central question of the reconstruction and development of our country. Faced with these challenges and in keeping with the concept of a people-driven process of transformation, the GNU has therefore taken steps to bring the public service workers in a joint process with the government aimed at reaching common ground with regard to the process of change as a whole, and not merely matters relating to earnings and working conditions, important though these are.
In this regard, the GNU is also discussing with the public sector unions and other role players the establishment of a broad-based Public Sector Forum.
An important feature of the period of rule of the GNU has been the relative peace and stability which the country as a whole has enjoyed.
By and large the security organs have cooperated with the GNU in the maintenance of peace and stability as well as in taking the first steps towards their own transformation a reorientation, in keeping with the provisions and perspectives contained in the Constitution.
However, we cannot report that all resistance to the establishment of the democratic order has disappeared. This has continued to manifest itself in various ways, without assuming a level of intensity which has threatened the new constitutional order. The GNU has taken the necessary initiatives to deal with all situations that have arisen expressive of this resistance.
A negative feature has been the murder of police officers by various criminal elements. Fortunately, this now seems to be on the decline.
The greater incidence of “unrest” within the security organs and/or areas under the control, has been occasioned by actions within the police, the defence force and the prisons, led and initiated by groups which have claimed to be part of our democratic movement.
Similar observations can be made with regard to the civil service which, by and large, has also continued to work normally, except for occasional eruptions from sections which draw their inspiration from the democratic movement
Despite everything we have said so far, the GNU has managed to introduce new policy initiatives expressive of and consistent with the vision for transformation contained in the RDP.
This has been reflected in various White and Green Papers that have been published and some of the legislation that has already been approved by the national legislature.
The preparations carried out by the GNU with regard to the translation of the RDP objectives into concrete state policy and programmes, indicate that the forthcoming 1995 session of parliament will see the presentation and approval of a large volume of legislation focused on effecting the changes visualised in the RDP.
This coming year should also see the establishment of various constitutional and statutory bodies such as the Human Rights Commission, the Public Protector, the Land Commission, the National Economic Development and Labour Council, the Gender Commission, the Truth Commission and possibly, a Youth Development Commission.
An important feature of the work of the GNU in the preparation of policy documents, such as the White Papers, and the drafting of legislation, has been the effort to involve civil society in the process of governance.
The GNU is committed to the further entrenchment of this process, which should result in the activisation of larger numbers of people to be involved in both the formulation of policy and the implementation of programmes that derive from this policy.
The GNU has also been engaged in elaborating plans to ensure better two-way communication between itself and the general public. During the coming year, new initiatives will be taken to improve such communication, including the adoption of the Freedom of Information Act.
Under the leadership of the GNUJ, the country’s system of international relations has grown in scope and depth. Diplomatic relations have been established with almost all countries. Membership of the OAU, the UN and other intergovernmental organisations has been restored.
The GNU joined the governments of Zimbabwe and Botswana to help restore democracy in Lesotho. It also acted with the rest of the region to support and encourage the process of democratisation in Mozambique. It will also be acting together with other governments in the region to help in the process of establishing peace and democracy in Angola. During the coming year the GNU will take further steps with the rest of the region to build a comprehensive system of regional cooperation.
The GNU will also participate, together with the women’s movement, in the Beijing 4th UN International Women’s Conference. Steps will also be taken to bring organisations of civil society into the process of the elaboration of foreign policy.
The GNU is committed to discharging its international responsibilities within the means available to it, fully sensitive to the fact that our successful transition to democracy has resulted in the general expectation that we will contribute meaningfully to the building of a better world for all.