Doctoral candidate in UKZN’s School of Management, Information Technology and Governance (MIG) and Principal Agricultural Scientist at the Tsolo Agriculture and Rural Development Institute, Mr Justice Maluleke, presented the findings of his research at the 21st South African Association of Public Administration and Management (SAAPAM) conference.
The event brought together academics, practitioners and civil society under one roof, with the interface between academics and practitioners of public service and administration – a characteristic of all SAAPAM conferences – clearly evident.
Maluleke said the concept, practice and challenges of a capable state had been a golden thread running throughout the event. ‘Central to the convergence was the importance of capacity building in enhancing the ability of the state to discharge its responsibilities effectively and efficiently.’
Maluleke’s research explored South Africa’s governance and policy implementation processes in the context of rural areas using a case study of food security programmes in the OR Tambo District in the Eastern Cape.
Supervised by Professor Betty Mubangizi, Maluleke’s study highlighted how organisational performance and governance arrangements affected the execution of food security programmes in rural communities already battling challenges of communal land tenure, land degradation, and climate change.
‘The study established that deviation from centrally set procedures and plans due to political influence has adverse effects on the implementation of food security programmes, as does a top-down, rigid approach to programme implementation,’ said Maluleke.
‘Overall, the study concluded a one-size-fits-all approach hampers food security programmes in rural-based municipalities. Specifically, the late delivery of production inputs, the lengthy value chain, overburdened extension workers and a lack of consequence management on the part of senior management, prevents the successful implementation of food security programmes.’
He said poorly resourced communities tended to pool resources in the face of failed public service support, emphasising that nurturing community-based initiatives through targeted state support could be a solution to failing food security projects.
Enhanced planning by the state is identified as one area that also needs attention. The low uptake of statistical data and its utilisation for effective planning remained challenging.
Maluleke said discussions at the conference did not shy away from the fact that the country was showing clear signs of heading for collapse, with weak governance systems and processes highlighted as being at the core of the problems.
‘Scholarly work providing practical solutions is available and should be found and effectively utilised to kick start a journey towards creating a capable state. Certain cities and government agencies had pockets of success and it is possible to find more practical solutions by understanding what motivates those areas of brilliance.
‘The take-home message was that academics and scholars shouldn’t be silent but rather communicate their message to the state while providing workable recommendations to improve public policy implementation. Scholars should be the voice of reason with conference debates unanimous that it cannot be business as usual for academics and scholars,’ he said.
Maluleke added that he was grateful to the National Research Foundation and Mubangizi’s Research Chair on Sustainable Rural Livelihoods, for partly funding his doctoral research which enabled him to attend his first-ever academic conference.
Commenting on the significance of this presentation, Mubangizi said: ‘Building the capacity of public officials working in rural settings and exposing them to contemporary discourse in public service delivery is an important aspect of my research Chair.’
Words: Ndaba Online