Personalising and De-Personalising Power: The Appointment of Executive Officers in Key State Institutions

Ivor Chipkin Rafael Leite Michelle Le Roux

The report, “Personalising and De-Personalising Power”, authored by Ivor Chipkin, Michelle Le Roux and Rafael Leite was published by NSI in December 2022, and makes an unprecedented contribution to the debate on the professionalisation of the public service in South Africa. The authors investigate the legal requirements and advancing jurisprudence related to the appointment of high-ranking public officers in the South African national government to understand the evolution of rationales behind the assignment of these officers since the end of Apartheid. The research indicates that, in general, the filling of senior public office in South Africa is largely a discretionary decision of the president or the cabinet of ministers (with the exception of chapter 9 institutions). However, the authors have also identified an advance in the understanding of the courts that points in the direction of limiting the discretion of politicians by introducing criteria that ensure the structural and operational autonomy of public institutions. The report argues, however, that although these developments are positive, it is important that they are institutionalised in such a way as to ensure that the restriction of discretion does not only seek to prevent the abuse of power, but also to guarantee an improvement in the delivery of public services through the adoption of the assessment of competencies in the definition of the heads of public institutions.

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