Item 425 - Speech by President Nelson Mandela at a luncheon in honour of Dr R Venter, Former Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, and Mr I Robson, Former Commissioner

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Speech by President Nelson Mandela at a luncheon in honour of Dr R Venter, Former Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, and Mr I Robson, Former Commissioner


  • 1996-10-03 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Website

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Luncheon in honour of Dr R Venter and Mr I Robson for service on the Public Service Commission

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  • English

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Minister Skweyiya;
Chairperson and Members of the Public Service Commission;

Distinguished guests;

Guests of Honour;

Ladies and gentlemen

When, earlier this year, Dr. Roe Venter retired as Chairperson of the Public Service Commission and Mr. Ian Robson as a Commissioner, they were ending long and distinguished careers in the Public Service.

Born into the ranks of a privileged minority, history decreed that the State in which they began their careers should serve only part of out nation's people. Their crowning achievement is to have put their vast fund of accumulated knowledge and skills at the service of the transformation of the South African Public Service into one that is true to our new democracy. In helping transform our Public Service, they transformed their own careers into ones in which they became true servants of the people as a whole.

This is not the occasion to dwell in detail on the lives that prepared them for this contribution to the building of our new nation. Suffice it to say that they are lives filled with academic distinction and professional dedication.

Today we honour them for their contribution over the past two years to the success of the Public Service Commission in the ongoing transformation.

This demanded a rare combination of qualities.

It required team work. The two old hands and the three new Commissioners, Professor Stan Sangweni, Dr. Sibusiso Vil-Nkomo and Dr. Yvonne Muthien quickly formed an effective unit based on mutual respect, trust and support. Giving their utmost, working long and exhausting hours, the team achieved wonders. It is a tribute to them that less than two months after the April 1994 elections, the new laws, regulations and staff code were all in place for the legal framework needed to begin the creation of a new single Public Service for a democratic South Africa.

The second secret of the Commission's achievements was the emphasis on planning and preparation. The smooth transition from my inauguration as President, when all the powers of Government were vested in me, to the point where Ministerial portfolios were allocated; powers were delegated to Ministers and Heads of Department; and the restructuring of the Public Service was well under way, bears testimony to how well the way had been prepared.

The third requirement was a high level of expertise and knowledge about how the existing Public Service functioned. To this our two guests of honour made an invaluable contribution. The task of restructuring and rationalising eleven public services into one was a mammoth task, I dare say with few parallels anywhere in the world.

The final requirement was a shared vision. This vision informed the transformation of the Public Service commission itself, on the basis of the new model for state administration that was implemented earlier this year. This internationally acclaimed model, soon to come before Parliament in the Public Service Bill, combines greater managerial autonomy for departments and provinces with a challenging new role for the Commission itself. The commission is to be an independent body, outside the Public Service. Its task will be to promote sound administration based on the values and principles set out in the Constitution, and monitor the efficiency and effectiveness of the Public Service.

This represents a paradigm shift for Public Service Commissions world-wide and I would like to thank the Commissioners for their visionary work in articulating a model which will do so much to help achieve our goals as a nation.

The final details of the new Public Service Commission's mandate are being settled in a dialogue between our Constitutional Court and our elected representatives. I would like to take this opportunity to welcome the Court's action to ensure that the Commission's independence is fully protected in the new Constitution, as well as their insistence that the Constitution should contain the precise powers the Commission needs to do the job defined in our fundamental constitutional principles.

For the majority of South Africans, the Public Service was seen as a hostile instrument of an oppressive minority. We have an immense challenge to build a state that is truly oriented towards the service of all South Africans; that is equitably representative of our society; that is guided by the broad vision of a better life for all; and that is dedicated to making efficient use of public resources. No less demanding are the tasks of rooting out corruption and safeguarding merit.

Achieving all these goals at the same time as we find the right size for our public service, will no doubt produce some testing times. It will need all South Africans, public servants and the public alike, to accept the Commission's leadership, independence and integrity. I am confident that the Commission will be equal to the task.

Twice, Roe Venter was prevailed upon not to resign, the second time with my personal involvement. Now we are allowing him and Ian Robson to enjoy their well-earned retirement. Many of their colleagues must have thought that these two senior public servants were married to their jobs, and probably during these past few very busy years their wives began to think so too! I would like to thank Mrs. Ann Venter and Mrs. Cynthia Robson for the support that helped them make their contribution. May they enjoy a happy, relaxed and lengthy retirement together.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let us salute Dr. Roe Venter and Mr. Ian Robson!

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 23/11/06 by Helen Joannides




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