The Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Ms Noxolo Kiviet, delivered an opening ceremony address on the themes of transformation, accountability, and justice during the UNESCO Global Forum Against Racism and Discrimination held in São Paulo, Brazil, today, 29 November 2023.

The ceremony was attended by dignitaries, including Minister Silvio Luiz de Almedia from the Federal Republic of Brazil, Minister Anielle Franco da Silva, Minister of Racial Equality from Brazil, and Minister Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Women Affairs, Community Small and Medium Enterprises from the Republic of Zimbabwe.

In her address, Minister Kiviet acknowledged the historical significance of the struggle against apartheid in South Africa. She emphasised that discrimination and racism are deeply ingrained in the fabric of society, affecting every aspect of the economy and development. Consequently, the adoption of the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid by the United Nations in 1974 marked a crucial step in recognising apartheid as a crime against humanity.

“The 1994 democratic breakthrough, therefore, called for not only a “Whole-of-Government” approach to dismantling the institutional racism and discrimination, but a whole-of-society transformation,” Minister Kiviet explained.

In line with constitutional directives, the government has established various independent institutions to support constitutional democracy, including the Public Protector, the South African Human Rights Commission, the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious, and Linguistic Communities, the Commission for Gender Equality, the Auditor General, the Independent Electoral Commission, the Independent Authority to Regulate Broadcasting, and the Public Service Commission, the Minister explained.

Minister Kiviet further explained how the public service was transformed from a bastion of racism and systematic discrimination to an inclusive administration that serves the needs of all South Africans, irrespective of colour. She highlighted the collaborative efforts of the Public Service Commission, the National School of Government, and the Department of Public Service and Administration in developing the Professionalisation Framework for the Public Sector, among other ongoing efforts to transform South Africa’s public service and administration landscape. The Public Sector professionalisation framework, approved by the Cabinet, aims to enhance professionalism, meritocracy, and ethical standards within the public sector through legislative and policy changes.

“We have also promulgated the Employment Equity Act, the Broad-Based Economic Empowerment Policy and Act, the Preferential Procurement Act and Affirmative Action, designed to ensure that the Public Service and economic participation reflects the country’s racial demographics. With the success of this racial and gender transformation, we are now implementing the Professionalisation Framework to achieve meritocratic appointments and higher standards of professional ethics,” Minister Kiviet said.

According to the Minister, South Africa’s transition from apartheid to an inclusive society was also aided by the lessons learned from participating in multi-lateral forums, such as the African Peer Review Mechanism of the African Union, the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), and the Open Government Partnership. These engagements have positioned South Africa as a leader in open budgeting processes, allowing public participation in resource allocation and prioritisation.

However, Minister Kiviet also acknowledged the challenges that persist, including the abuse of democratic systems and openness by those who benefited from apartheid. She reaffirmed the government’s unwavering commitment to the transformation of the Republic, promoting non-racialism, non-sexism, justice, and fairness.

“Despite challenges, the Ministry remains committed to transforming the Republic, delivering non-racialism, non-sexism, justice, and fairness,” she said.