Extract President Cyril Ramaphosa is establishing a unit in the presidency which he hopes will improve policy development and coordination. This is an important initiative designed to help him address the huge challenges facing his incoming government. There is no question that strengthening the government’s policy capacity is a priority. South African cabinet ministries are often individualistic and departments tend to operate as silos. There tends to be poor alignment, let alone coordination, of policies and programmes within national government and between the spheres of government. The president has some power to impose discipline. But this power depends on being very well informed and briefed by his team.

The unit — called the Policy Analysis and Research Services — will be headed by Busani Ngcaweni, a seasoned mandarin in the presidency. Ngcaweni was chief of staff when Ramaphosa was deputy president. He had, remarkably, occupied this senior and sensitive post for four c...

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