Ayabonga Cawe tries to present the best case for a restructuring of the public service that does not involve a reduction in the overall headcount, but that focuses on more targeted interventions in the composition of the wage bill (“Wage bill cannot be cut without analysis”, November 25). Unfortunately, the suggested proposals remain vague and unrealistic.

The wage level at which public servants enter the state roll is already high by international standards, the way wages are set is determined by the powerful role of the unions in the state bargaining councils, and how incentives are used to bring skills to where they are needed most is subject to the vagaries of patronage and corruption.

Moreover, the mythical appeal to the virtues of the “developmental state” is bound to crumble in the face of the deep-seated incompetence, corruption and lack of institutional capacity displayed by a succession of ANC administrations.

In sum, there is little prospect that the restructuring of the public service can be accomplished without thorough reform of state institutions, an improvement in ethical governance and a reassessment of the supposed benefits of the tripartite alliance between the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP.

Maurizio Passerin d’Entreves
Professor emeritus, UCT