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South Africa needs a new governance model post-Covid-19

- William Gumede

South Africa’s governance model, the way the country is run, is broken.

Without a new governance model, South Africa will be unable to overcome the Covid-19 health, social and economic crises; and the country is likely to plunge into economic chaos, social breakdown and rolling violent unrest. To save South Africa from such a frightening fate, a new governance model is urgently needed.

Here’s 10 pillars that should be the foundations of a new post-Covid-19 governance model for South Africa.

Evidence-based policy must be a key pillar of the management strategy model of the country. This will make government policy more logical, credible and palatable, to wider constituencies. Over the past few years, government policy-making has often either been based on ideology, wishful thinking or being corrupted. 

Merit must be principle of government operations. The talents of all South Africans, no matter their colour, ethnicity or political affiliation must be used to rebuild the economy.

Merit-based appointments to government positions and to structures that oversee Covid-19 economic restructuring are crucial. Crony, cadre and pork-barrel appointments to government structures has wreaked destruction since 1994, undermining public service delivery, wasting scarce public funds and destroying government’s credibility. Government contracts must be awarded based on merit, fairness and value for money.

Commonsense must drive government decisions, actions and policies. Many government policies, decisions and actions over the past years have made little rational sense. This definitely have to change.

There has to be greater accountability from elected and public representatives. There has to be consequences for wrongdoing. People must be hold accountable for wrongdoing. The culture impunity must come to an end.

Accountability strengthens the credibility of government, and importantly motivate citizens to willingly comply with government directives. If citizens perceive there a lack of accountability among elected and public representatives accountability, citizens readily defy government injunctions.

There has to be partnerships between the public, private sector, civil society and communities to reconstruct the post-Covid-19 economy. The private sector and civil society are not the enemies of government to be in mortal combat with as many ANC leaders may misguidedly belief.

It is also a fallacy to think as many ANC members or others do, that the state can go it alone. The state simply lacks the capacity, resources and ideas to execute economic policies on its own. Partnerships not only bring goodwill, they bring skills, resources and wider-buying for policies, decisions and delivery.

Government must govern honestly. Without honesty, there can be no trust, the glue of effective partnerships, citizen compliance and willingness to behave public-spiritedly. This includes government communicating honestly to citizens, beyond the traditional faceless press statements, doublespeak and gobblygook, is crucial rally citizens behind government initiatives.

Entrepreneurship has to be heart of post-Covid-19 economy reconstruction. Entrepreneurs create new industries, new jobs and new wealth. They increase the size of economies. They fuel economic growth. They inspire a virtual cycle of others trying their hand at starting new businesses, new developments and new initiatives too. In South Africa, entrepreneurship will have to be promoted across society - within the state, private sector, civil society and communities.

Corruption has to be tackled with greater seriousness. No successful posti-Covid—19 reconstruction is remotely possible with the government seen to tackling corruption, especially corrupt by untouchable politically connected ANC cadres, political capitalists and tenderpreneurs. Corruption that is not dealt destroys the credibility of government, trust and encourages corruption across society.

The rule of law is fundamental. The rule of law must apply to everyone equally. The rule of law cannot just be applied to ordinary citizens. The politically-connected cannot be exempted from the law as has been the case since the end of apartheid. Neither should there be untouchables, which appear to be above the law, such as minibus taxi drivers and bosses, gangsters and building hijackers.

The poor, vulnerable and marginalised must always be cared for, without this principle, there will be no post-Covid-19 economic reconstruction possible. The, country will go up in flames on the back of their.  The Covid-19 crisis offers a fresh opportunity to fix South Africa’s broken governance model. Without fixing the broken governance model a new equitable, inclusive and peaceful society is not possible.

William Gumede is Associate Professor, School of Governance, University of the Witwatersrand; and author of Restless Nation: Making Sense of Troubled Times (Tafelberg)

This is an edited extract from the Academic Review Paper, “Priority Setting for Interventions in Pre-and Post-Pandemic Management: The Case of Covid-19, analysing Government’s Covid-19 response. The report was done in partnership with the South African Technology Network (SATN) and National Scientists and Organisations.