Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Members of the media fraternity
Ladies and Gentlemen
Nelson Mandela addressing the regional workshop of the International Ombudsman Institution said “People must be encouraged to speak out against maladministration with the surety that their complaints will be taken seriously and in confidence. Every citizen needs to be familiar with their obligations and duties. They must be able to claim the right to be treated justly, promptly and courteously, and to claim their due under the law. Only then will we be able to ensure that government is dedicated to public service and a culture of efficiency and transparency” –
In the year 2018 we celebrate the life of a selfless servant of the people, who dedicated 67 years of his life in the struggle for the liberation of my people. He was a true internationalist who believed in solidarity.
South Africa leads the world in celebrating the centenary of the birth of President Nelson Mandela. A freedom fighter, human rights activist and an exceptional statesman.
We salute his courage and sterling efforts in building a foundation for a free, democratic and prosperous South Africa. As public servants and civil society we should take courage in his enduring legacy as a committed and principled servant of the people. It is fitting that yesterday the UN General Assembly hosted a Global Peace Summit.
The 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly will focus on Global Peace in honour of the centenary of the birth of Nelson Mandela.
The Peace Summit offers the opportunity for world leaders to take a leaf out of the illustrious life of President Mandela and renew their commitment to global peace, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, promotion and protection of human rights and long-term development initiatives as called for by the Secretary-General. The Peace Summit will also adopt a political declaration, which will reaffirm the values of Nelson Mandela, which are enshrined in our Constitution, these are openness, transparency, accountability and inclusivity.
In true Madiba style, Even the process of creating our constitution was a consultative one, with submission from over 1 million citizens and from all political parties.
At his first State of the Nation Address in 1995 former President Mandela said “we must continue to look for ways and means of ensuring that the people as a whole are better informed of what we are doing and are given ever improved capacity to intervene in our proceedings in an informed and purposive manner”. In honouring the teachings of Madiba, we have committed ourselves to:
- increase the responsiveness of government to its citizens
- counter corruption and the illicit flows of capital,
- promote economic efficiencies,
- Harness innovation and improve the delivery of public services.
Much as we are a young 24 year old constitutional democracy, we have been able to register successes in the institutionalization of collaboration between the government and its citizens, which is at the heart of open government and the following are some examples:
A Constitution that lays the foundation for a democratic and open society in which government is based on the will of the people and every citizen is equally protected by law; improves the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person.
We have the most transparent budget process, again we were ranked number 1 globally in Information Budget Transparency
With regards to the media space and allowing for a plurality of views, South Africa has 165 government subsidised but independently run community radio stations that provide news, current affairs and edu-tainment content to the public. These stations give our citizens a locally based and community controlled mass media communications tool that allows them space for civic engagement and an enhanced ability to communicate and distribute information more widely. Government is also able to reach more than 7 million by distributing information to citizens via these platforms. In all official languages
We also have the Media Development and Diversity Agency, to ensure access to diversified media which reflects the needs and aspirations of all South Africans. The MDDA has a mandate to encourage control and ownership of media by historically disadvantage individuals, as well as by historically diminished indigenous language and cultural groups. Ladies and Gentleman
The experiences of citizens, who are the intended beneficiaries of government services, are a critical component of measuring the performance of government and also for the delivery of appropriate and quality services to the people. We have opened up one-stop-shop public service centres called Thusong (Help)Service Centres. Here our citizens can come and receive a comprehensive suite of public services, from social grant applications, to postal services and even receive small business development, amongst other services. The Thusong Centres help us to bring government services closer to the people.
Our government appreciates, that we must at all times involve our citizens. It is therefore necessary that we promote systematic ways in which the experiences of citizens are brought into the monitoring of public services.
Each political leader from all 3 spheres of our government is obligated by resolution of Cabinet to held atleast 10 community meetings, these are used as an opportunity to engage the public on the implementation of government’s Programme of Action to help improve people’s lives. Ministers and Deputy Ministers, including civil servants will also use it to update the public on the availability of public service and how to access them.
Our Citizen-based monitoring programme focuses on the experiences of citizens in relation to government performance, in order to improve public accountability and service delivery. The approach emphasises the building of capacity, of both citizens and officials at the point where services are delivered. This is done to ensure the following:
(i) Monitor how citizens experience service delivery, (ii) analyse this feedback, (iii) take actions for improvements and (iv) communicate to all stakeholders the interventions being implemented.
In doing this we democratize the power of oversight back into the hands of ordinary people.
New Technology Tools
We have also embraced new technology tools, which we are confident will improve on our ability to engage more of our citizens, in a more direct manner and also in a more responsive manner.
I and many other Ministers in South Africa have a presence across multiple social media platforms, including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, with a view of extending that presence onto other platforms. This allows us as public representatives to be more accessible to our people and also gives the people the ability to connect more directly with their elected representatives than any other time in history.
We have seen the South African government begin to use social media as a communications tool. For an example the City of Johannesburg’s power utility frequently communicates any power outages via their twitter and facebook accounts. They keep the public updated as to how far the process of restoring power to the affected communities is at any given point.
Social Media presents a great opportunity for government to improve the delivery of services to our people. We can be able to glean from social media interactions where the pockets of excellence are and where weaknesses can be found. Using that information we can put in place interventions that speak directly to the lived experiences of our people.
Gov At Work Videos
Our government through the Department of Communications releases weekly videos, giving an overview and recap of the week that was in government and also giving citizens a preview of the priorities of the government for the upcoming week. This allows our people to keep up with the work of their government and also to anticipate upcoming government programmes. The initiative is called “Government at Work”, the videos are uploaded onto youtube, distributed widely on social and also traditional media platforms. Including Community radio stations, meaning atleast 7-8 million people are reached at any given point.
NDP and Consultation
At the dawn of our democracy we crafted what is considered to be one of the best Constitutions in the world, that process was incredibly consultative, with over a million written submissions submitted for consideration and inclusion into the democratic constitution we enjoy today. Two decades later when South Africa crafted the National Development Plan Vision 2030, which is the blueprint for our country’s long-term strategic development objectives, we followed a similar process to the one that delivered our Constitution. We had collaborative process that included inputs of South Africans from all walks of life, the results of which is a National Development Plan that is embraced by all as a shared vision for our country.
Our NDP, has identified innovation as a critical catalyst in the development of South Africa. Moreover, both the Sustainable Development Goals and Agenda 2063 of the AU recognise the need for the public service to be agile, innovative and use its available resource such as its youth to ensure the lives of people are improved.
Innovation will be a key determiner of how we improve the way we deliver services to all our citizens wherever they may be. We have observed Silicon Valley and other innovation hubs in the private and public sectors and we have drawn valuable lessons on how innovation, if harnessed and supported, can create immense value. This is why we are pushing full steam ahead with hosting the Ignite Public Service Hackathon this weekend from 28 to 30 September at the University of Johannesburg.
Over 200 innovative young minds in our country will convene under the auspices of the Department of Public Service and Administration and the Centre for Public Service Innovation to unearth solutions that can improve the work of government. The best solutions from the hackathon will be incubated at the Centre for Public Service and Innovation, where they will receive support to scale their solutions to sustainable levels of implementation. The young people at the Hackathon will be given access to vast amounts of data owned by government, with the hope that they will mine the big data to innovate the public service.
I must share that since I announced the date for the hackathon, my twitter account has been flooded with messages from young people eager to participate and to lend a hand. This to me is encouraging, as it tells us that the youth have an interest to participate in our governance and service improvement processes and that we need only to create the right forms of platforms to keep them engaged.
The hackathon is our way of opening up the solution ideation phase of public service, it is to make the public service more open and receptive to innovative ideas that might originate from the people. This allows the country to benefit from the creative energies of its young people.
This culture of active collaboration between our government and innovators in our country has already yielded solutions that have been deployed in the public service.
We have the Namola App, which is a public safety app that allows citizens to receive emergency assistance quickly by dispatching an emergency vehicle that is geo-located closest to an emergency situation. Quick response times can be the difference between life and death in an emergency situation. Namola now has a relationship with various police units and emergency service departments in our country and the App’s ambassador Mr Yusuf Abramjee will be joining us at the Ignite Public Service Hackathon.
Our government has also signed various agreements with GovChat, which is South Africa's largest civic engagement platform, enabling citizens to speak directly to government and to their elected public representatives at no cost. The platform is one of the best in the world, because it allows the citizen to communicate not with an automated bot but communicate directly and in real time with their Councilor, Minister or any other elected official. GovChat also allows government to receive critical service delivery related feedback in real time, serving as an early warning system about citizen dissatisfaction. This platform is one of the innovations that our government is proud to be associated with.
Amongst the other innovations that our government has been:
E-phamarcy, an automated pharmacy dispensation solution that has cut down the time patients wait for their medication from an average of 2 hours to just 18 minutes.
The SA Reserve Bank is exploring blockchain technology with Project Khokha, a pilot program deployed in a “real world” environment using a block-chain based wholesale payment system. The Reserve Bank report that the Project Khokha was able to process in 2 hours the volume of transaction that usually take an average of 1 day to process using current systems.
Treasury has created Vuleka Mali, an online budget data portal that allows citizens to track expenditure by each government department and see where they tax funds are going.
We will accelerate our strategy of being early adopters of technologies that promise to reduce the social distance between our people and their government, technologies which improve service delivery, enhance transparency and build trust between government and citizen.
In the 24 years of our existence, we have made great strides to improve the lives of our people and much more still needs to be done. More South Africans have access to social services as provided for in the Sustainable Development Goals. However, our people don’t only yearn for material things, they also want to be in control of their own destinies, they want to have a say in how their country is governed and wish to participate in the political life of their country beyond the usual voting every 5 years. It is precisely because of this reality that we as a government continue to commit to and identify with mechanisms such as the Open Government Partnership, the African Peer Review Mechanism and GovInsider, to foster stronger bonds between government and the people, to democratize decision making in our state institutions and to make governing more transparent.
Our people demand no less from us.
As I conclude I would like to leave you with a quote from Nelson Mandela’s friend and mentor President OR Tambo, when he said “If you think waging a struggle is difficult, wait to when we get to power. It is much more difficult to run a country”.
This quotation rings true for almost every leader but we are reminded by the masses of our people and our oath of office to always put our best foot forward in pursuit of delivering a capable people centred public service machinery, that puts our people first.
I am grateful for the invite and the opportunity to join you at this conference. Our delegation looks forward to participating in the conference sessions, especially the sessions on “Cybersecuirty, inclusive innovation and seamless payment across the Public Sector, amongst others.
May we all have a stimulating conference!