Dr. Ivor Chipkin Speaks to Newzroom Afrika: The Future of Public Service Reform


In a recent interview with Newzroom Afrika, Dr Ivor Chipkin, executive director and co-founder of the New South Institute, offered an incisive perspective on the 1994 Public Service Act and South Africa’s broader administrative environment.

Dr Chipkin discussed the ongoing merging of political and administrative roles, arguing that ideally a “professional, meritocratically selected class of administrators” should implement policy decisions. He drew attention to the challenge that arises when this separation is blurred: “The use of carders, for example, could not be as damaging as it is if ministers and the president did not have discretion in their areas of recruitment”.

In his analysis, he suggested that a clearer delineation between political and administrative roles could pave the way to resolving many institutional crises. However, he remained cognisant of the complexity of the issue and acknowledged that it would require significant changes in governance practices.

Turning to the Public Administration Management Bill, Dr Chipkin described it as a “promising model” for transforming the civil service. However, he was careful to point out the challenge that politicians may face in relinquishing the power to make appointments, a practice that has contributed to ‘state capture’.

Dr Chipkin also acknowledged a changing political landscape. He said: “For the first time again, perhaps in our history, there is a relationship between performance in government and performance at the polls”. However, he was cautious about claiming this as a guarantee of better governance, suggesting that the dynamics of political power can be unpredictable.

For the first time again, perhaps in our history, there is a relationship between performance in government and electoral performance. In other words, especially since 2016, the ruling party is losing power on the basis of how poorly or well it’s doing in government, whereas other parties seem to be mobilising or gaining support on the basis of the promise of doing well in government or on their experiencing government, including the DA.

Ivor Chipkin

His interview is a testament to the New South Institute’s commitment to providing thoughtful, balanced analysis to shape public discourse. For those interested in the full depth of Dr Chipkin’s insights, we invite you to watch the full interview and read our recent policy brief, “An Agenda for Reform“, which proposes a path towards a reformed and more effective public service in South Africa.

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