Defend Truth


Election year marks perfect opportunity to transform public servants and services for the benefit of SA 


Chris Pappas is the mayor of uMngeni Local Municipality.

In the evolving landscape of South African society and governance, particularly as we approach the 2024 General Election, the role of public servants has never been more critical. This election presents an opportunity for transformative change, setting the stage for a new breed of civil servants, marked by their drive for innovation, empathy, and a commitment to collaborative progress.

The traditional image of public servants as rigid, bureaucratic figures is becoming a relic of the past. In its place, a new vision for public leadership is emerging, one that aligns with the dynamic challenges and opportunities of contemporary South Africa. This new breed of leaders embodies a blend of forward-thinking and compassionate governance, crucial in steering our nation towards a brighter future. 

Central to this evolution is the ethos of compassionate leadership. Far from being a superficial nicety, compassion is the cornerstone of effective governance. It’s about creating a culture of mutual respect and empathy, where diverse voices and perspectives are not just acknowledged but genuinely valued. As we navigate the complexities of a diverse nation like South Africa, compassionate leadership becomes instrumental in building bridges across communities, fostering unity and understanding in a country still healing from its past divisions.

Alongside compassion, insightful decision-making is paramount. Modern leaders must cut through the complexity of governance with clarity and precision. This involves understanding the multifaceted nature of challenges faced by our communities and discerning the underlying currents shaping these challenges. As we move towards the 2024 General Election, this clarity in leadership will be vital in making decisions that resonate with the collective aspirations of our nation.

The rapidly evolving global landscape demands public servants who are not just aware of technological and societal shifts but are also adept at leveraging these changes for the betterment of society. Leaders must be proficient in digital and data realms, employing innovative approaches to policy-making and service delivery. In a country as diverse and complex as South Africa, this adaptability is essential for addressing the unique needs of our citizens and ensuring that governance keeps pace with the changing times. 

Responsibility for a better future

As South Africa gears up for the 2024 General Election, the integrity of public servants is under sharper focus than ever. The foundation of trust in governance lies in the unwavering ethical integrity of our leaders. In a political landscape often marred by allegations of corruption and malfeasance, it is imperative that our public servants demonstrate a commitment to transparency, fairness, and moral rectitude. Upholding these values is crucial for restoring and maintaining public trust, especially in a critical election year.

Effective public service is defined by a relentless commitment to societal welfare. In a country grappling with issues like inequality, poverty, and unemployment, public servants must exhibit a steadfast dedication to improving the quality of life and future prospects for all South Africans. This dedication is about more than just policy-making; it’s about being deeply invested in the tangible, day-to-day improvement of people’s lives. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Treasury adopts a new approach to rein in bloated public servants’ wage bill

A profound sense of responsibility is vital in public service. Recognising the role as a steward of public trust, especially in the context of an election year, is key to fostering a culture of accountability and service-oriented leadership. This responsibility is about prioritising the public good over personal gain, a principle that is especially poignant in the political atmosphere of an election.

As South Africa approaches the 2024 General Election, the most transformative public servants will be those who dare to question established norms and advocate for progressive change. These leaders challenge conventional wisdom, bring innovative ideas to the forefront, and collaborate with diverse partners to drive meaningful change. In a country at the crossroads of its future, such bold leadership is crucial for navigating the challenges ahead and unlocking new opportunities for growth and development.

As we look towards the 2024 General Election, the future of public sector leadership in South Africa calls for a paradigm shift. This new path, characterised by compassionate leadership, insightful decision-making, innovative adaptation, ethical integrity, dedicated perseverance, a deep sense of responsibility, and a readiness to challenge the conventional, promises not just effective governance but a profound impact on the lives of South Africans. It’s a journey that holds the potential to redefine our nation’s trajectory, steering it towards a future marked by unity, prosperity, and shared success. DM


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  • Paul T says:

    Chris if you can repeat what you and the DA have achieved in Umngeni in the whole of KZN, there will be a massive momentum shift. I’m sure many people hope and dream that the people will vote DA/IFP and kick the ANC out for good. Don’t expect all the ANC, RET and “business forum” hangers on to go quietly, expect some guerilla warfare.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Enkosi kakhulu.

    Let all our countrymen read this and understand it as it is the blueprint for a better nation.

    Amandla awethu – power to our people.

  • Robert Pegg says:

    A good speech but “putting money where your mouth is,” is a lot harder. We live in hope.

  • Miles Japhet says:

    All true but this requires a fundamentally different culture to traditional African culture where servant leadership is not at the core. The big man is still revered.
    The DA needs to win this country one municipality at a time – visual and lived experience should sway voters.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    It is a bit too woolly; Chris and I live in uMngeni. You have achieved much more practical results than you illustrate above. Servant leadership means being seen to lead from the front when needed and to help those at the back to catch up and not be left behind by …? Ever open ears to common issues, intuiting and gaining support for next steps, accessing finance, visioning a future that is more equal by? You do it but are not articulating it here. Your visibility is a key to your success.

  • Glyn Morgan says:

    Great article. Go KZN + Papas GO, for peace and prosperity!!

    Note to DM. Please reprint this article in N24.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Public Servants report and act ostensibly to the voters. Civil Servants report, ostensibly, to Public Servants and more often than not have contempt of the Public….. Civil Servants jobs are secure by and large notwithstanding often duvious competencies

  • J vN says:

    Will white people now also be allowed to become public servants, if the public service is to be transformed? (Asking for a friend….)

  • Jan Vos says:

    “Election year marks perfect opportunity to transform public servants…”

    Eish! What planet are you from Mr Pappas? Again: Kokios planetos esate iš pono Pappas?

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      The planet of humans. And all the wrong attitudes will not change until people like Chris Pappas and others like him start to speak up. In Ghana it was the same until John Kuofor stepped up in 1992. It can be like that in SA too. So why are you so negative, Jan Vos? Why don’t you step up too?

  • Alan Watkins says:

    Well said, Chris, aspirationally – Now I would like to hear what you problems you faced (with incumbent civil servants) when you and the DA came into power, and how you dealt with these problems at local government level. I know it took the DA years, even decades, to weed out non performing and obstructive civil servants from the previous ANC administration. This point is relevant given that the DA and other opposition parties expect to kick out a lot of ANC politicians in the upcoming elections but be faced with obstructionist civil servants at provincial (and maybe even national) government level..

  • Fernando Moreira says:

    This guy should be pushed up the ladder in the DA !!
    Compare this to the contribution of the ANC and EFF !
    Its not even a race

  • Theresa Avenant says:

    I think Mr Pappas is to be commended for his sterling effort in trying to make a difference in South Africa and his article is indeed laudable, maar ongelukkig lyk dit vir my dat hy onder ‘n palmboom in glimlagland sit.

    • Roelf Pretorius says:

      Theresa, is dit nie eintlik jy wat aan ‘n hout in die stroomversnellings van die Kongorivier vasklou nie? Onthou die slagspreuk (wat baie waar is): “Evil will always win if good men do nothing”. Chris, en baie van ons ander, probeer om die regte ding te doen. En as jy en Jan Vos nie versigtig is nie, gaan julle saam met die Ace Magashules en Jacob Zumas agterbly.

  • Roelf Pretorius says:

    I can only hope that Chris Pappas and Geordin Hill-Lewis will ascend to the top leadership positions in the DA sooner rather than later. SA has a dire deficiency of leadership figures of their quality.

  • Jabu Mhlanga says:

    So true…SA yearns for service oriented leadership…not those who are obsessed about filling up stadia, looking for overwhelming support, merely for exploitation of people, resources and state funds.

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