25 September 2023

SOUTH AFRICA: MP bullying leads to PS suicide

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The suicide of a senior Public Servant in South Africa has turned the spotlight onto job cuts in the public sector.

The official allegedly took his own life as a result of bullying by a Government Member of Parliament.

Lennox Garane, who had been a section manager for policy in the International Relations and Protocol Division of Parliament, killed himself last month.

In a suicide note read out during his memorial service, Mr Garane said he killed himself in protest against 20 months of bullying.

There is mounting speculation that the Government will soon embark on wholesale retrenchments as it moves to prevent the public sector wage bill from spiralling out of control.

The wage bill, which in 2018–19 will amount to ZAR587 billion (A$57.8 billion), represents 35 per cent of projected Government expenditure.

The 2018 Budget Review noted that, for the state to support higher levels of capital investment, it “needs to contain the Public Service wage bill, which has crowded out spending in other areas”.

Senior Lecturer at the University of Cape Town’s Public Policy and Administration Program, Vinothan Naidoo said the Government would find it difficult to cut jobs.

“I suspect it will be difficult to implement ‘wholesale’ retrenchments without determining what effect this will have on maintaining service-delivery systems,” Mr Naidoo said.

“Another issue which a lot of people have been concerned about is political interference in public sector appointments, which has eroded trust and credibility in, and stunted the growth of, a professional bureaucracy where skills are taken seriously.”

Deputy General Manager of the Public Servants’ Association, Tahir Maepa disagreed that the Public Service was bloated, pointing out that large numbers of Government employees were needed to deliver services.

He pointed out that there were more than 160,000 vacant positions in the Public Service.

Pretoria, 12 October 2018

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