n Journal of Public Administration - Training senior public servants in South Africa

Volume 50, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 0036-0767



South Africa negotiated a peaceful process of regime change from apartheid to a non-racial, non-sexist democracy. It has become a beacon to the world and Africa, attesting to the viability of negotiated settlements for complex socio-political conflicts. Despite the triumph of this political process, South Africa's transition to democracy has stumbled in important ways, slowing the development agenda. High-quality public service training and development is one important element of the necessary politico-administrative changes that must occur so that the country can make progress in an orderly fashion. This remains difficult in the current context. When the apartheid-distorted civil service was overhauled, political allegiance overruled technical competence, in the Weberian sense, in the deployment of cadres to public service positions. The corrupt procurement processes of the previous regime's collusion with the private sector continued to tempt the newly entering public servants. Adding to these challenges was the overlay of New Public Management and developmental state perspectives that failed to utilise concomitant accountability mechanisms, to constrain the strong cultural norms relying on ideology and kinship loyalty as normally found in modern effective administration. While the rudiments of improved public service management, anti-corruption measures and training are presently being put in place, guided by the National Development Plan, it remains to be seen if these initiatives will be widely supported and effectively implemented, or swept away in the next political rotation. Training in support of these initiatives is essential if the public service is to be able to deliver on its mandate.

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