The countdown to Africa Public Service Day has begun

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    The countdown to recognise the heroic self-sacrificing public servants, who continue to serve citizens while risking their lives, against the threatening highly contagious coronavirus has begun, writes Nthambeleni Gabara.

    Despite the disruptions and chaos caused by the outbreak of Covid-19, public servants in the African Continent are continuing to deliver critical services to citizens.

    The services are water, education, healthcare, social welfare, transport, sanitation as well as refuse and waste removal, to mention but a few. By braving the Covid-19 pandemic, African public servants managed to raise a sense of trust of their respective governments amongst citizens. 

    As Africans, we can proudly tell the world that we have a well-functioning public services and effective public servants who do not view serving others as a slavery in a civilised form.

    In Africa, public servants are facilitated to network, collaborate and share best practices for possible replication within a country as well as across the continent. 

    We all know that Africa Public Service Day (APSD), which is rooted in the African Union (AU) calender, originated in Tangier, Morocco 27 years ago following a session of African Public Service Ministers.

    The APSD is celebrated on June 23 annually throughout the continent…it is the day on which men, and women whose responsibility it is to serve the people of Africa showcase their innovation with respect to service delivery.

    This year, the APSD will be held in Zimbabwe from 21-23 under the theme: “Constructing the Africa we want through embracing an ethical culture that underpins purpose driven leadership.”

    In South Africa, the Public Service and Administration Department is the custodian of the day. As a result, Public Service and Administration Minister Senzo Mchunu will share the country’s plan to professionalise the public service space at the upcoming 8th continental APSD.

    Minister Senzo Mchunu

    The continental APSD has been celebrated previously as follows in Namibia, (2007), Tanzania (2009&2011), Ghana (2013), Congo (2015), in Rwanda (2017) and Kenya (2019).

    High on the APSD agenda is to mark and appreciate the work being done by the public service and to recognise their positive contribution to the socio-economic development of the continent. The 2021 APSD celebration takes its cue from the fact that, the African Union (AU) declared that this year’s programme would be a one-day main event on June 23, 2021.

    Since APSD is also aimed at discovering innovations, African leaders will also focus on enhancing their preparedness or develop contingency plans that will enable public servants in future to render services in crises moments such as the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.

    In South Africa, APSD day will be implemented as a weeklong programme from 23-25 June 2021, where all spheres of government will hold multi-sector dialogue sessions on the theme and sub-themes of the day’s event.

    This year, public services in the African continent will use the APSD platform to learn from each other’s successes and failures in their ability to respond to Covid-19.

    Just like elsewhere in the world, Covid-19 has also transformed the work and workplaces of the public service space in the African continent. Therefore, it will be appropriate for the public services in Africa to consider investing in digital skills so that they can be in a better position to manage future pandemics or any other crises.

    The Covid-19 pandemic left most public servants across the continent with no option, but to embrace new technology in rendering services, so digitilising the public service space to experience less strain caused by pandemics will be a progressive move.

    Earlier this year, the South African government unveiled the consultation process with regard to the National Implementation Framework towards the professionalisation of the public service.

    The framework, aims to entrench a dynamic system of professionalism in the public service space as well as to ensure meritocracy in the recruitment and career management of public servants, which are in line with the National Development Plan (NDP).

    It will also focus on initiating consequence management for irregularities through the transgression mechanisms available to professional bodies.

    Aspiration 3 of Agenda 2063 calls for the creation of “an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law”, aimed at consolidating democratic gains and improving the quality of governance; building strong institutions for developmental states; and facilitating the emergence of development-oriented and visionary leadership in all spheres.

    It is also through the APSD where leaders remind public servants to continually recognise and enhance the culture of being servants of citizens as a prerequisite of public service delivery programmes and promises to the voters. This should be based on upholding professional and ethical standards at all times.

    Ethical leadership in the public service space must always be based on professionalism and adherence to the legislative prescripts and frameworks governing public service and administration in the continent.

    The idea of an ethical leadership that brings about a highly productive public service to meet the basic needs of citizens, and contribute towards the development of the economy is critical as the backbone of the state.

    In the changing and evolving public service space, what is needed is dynamic leadership acumen that can transform departments into institutions of effective service delivery within a developmental state. 

    Matters that relate to poor productivity related to maladministration, governance failure and at times corruption are ethical challenges that continue to undermine state legitimacy.