A report in the Mail & Guardian on Friday has revealed that ANC insiders have said the party will trim the public service, starting with getting rid of at least 30,000 state workers over the next three years.
Their sources attended the ANC’s two-day lekgotla last week, which was marked by a late-night announcement by President Cyril Ramaphosa on land expropriation, though he also announced that government will introduce a major stimulus package.
The paper reports that R4 billion will need to be set aside to pay for retrenchment packages, though an estimated R20 billion would ultimately be saved in wages.
During the Jacob Zuma years, the public sector wage bill ballooned, with the then president causing the size of Cabinet and associated departments to swell massively without any noticeable improvements in efficiency and service delivery.
Ramaphosa promised in February that he would cut the size of government, starting with Cabinet. However, he did not change anything when announcing his first Cabinet reshuffle earlier this year.
During his maiden state of the nation address, Ramaphosa had said: “It is critical that the structure and size of the state is optimally suited to meet the needs of the people and ensure the most efficient allocation of public resources.
“We will therefore initiate a process to review the configuration‚ number and size of national government departments‚” he said.
There are currently 35 Cabinet ministers and 37 deputy ministers‚ all allocated official houses for Cape Town and Pretoria with support staff stationed in two cities.
Zuma had a 73-member Cabinet, while Thabo Mbeki made do with just 50.
According to the M&G, Ramaphosa may be trying to be even more efficient, with plans to cut the number of government departments down to as low as 18, or at most 24, from the current 36. Some non-performing parastatals are also likely to be absorbed into government departments from next year. Ramaphosa is expected to begin the trimming process after next year’s provincial and national elections.
The move to downscale government has put Ramaphosa at odds with labour federation Cosatu, which supported his rise to power.
Cosatu and the Public Servants’ Association told the paper they were aware of the planned job cuts and would oppose them.
The M&G also reported that Ramaphosa will need to find nearly R50 billion to fund his stimulus package of the economy, which continues to shed jobs in mining and manufacturing. Cosatu has called on government to use workers’ pension funds to “invest” in struggling mine shafts in an effort to save jobs.