Training a New Managerial Class
Outsiders are now focusing on the training of a new civil service culture in South Africa. An excellent report by the Commonwealth’s Expert Committee on Southern Africa sets out a detailed rationale for the training needs of the new South Africa together with imaginative and realistic proposals to finance and implement educational programs for postapartheid skills. The magnitude and urgency of these needs are enormous. As has often been pointed out, the efforts to abolish apartheid pale in comparison with the task of coping with its legacy.
At present, only 2.2 percent of managers in South Africa’s top companies are black (SAIRR, update, July 16, 1991). Although blacks constitute a majority of the civil service, including homeland bureaucracies, they generally occupy the very lowest positions. Official statistics record that 41 percent of the public service in South Africa (excluding the TBCV states) is African and 39 percent is white. However, of the 2,885 posts in the five top income categories in central state departments and provinces, only 14 were occupied by blacks in 1990 (Sunday Times, October 20, 1991). The upper echelons of the state bureaucracy are thoroughly dominated by an Afrikaner cultural ethos. The civil service elite is also almost exclusively male. For example, among the 141 permanent and 11 acting judges, in 1991 only one was a woman and one was black.
In Eastern Europe, as Marinus Wiechers has pointed out, the transition to a new order has meant both “doing away with the old policies” and “doing away with the people in government applying these policies.” But, Wiechers concludes, “We cannot afford to do the same in South Africa” (Sunday Tribune, October 27, 1991). There simply are not enough well-trained people to replace all the old bureaucrats and administrators, no matter how soiled their hands are. Indeed, the dependency on the old civil service by any postapartheid government and the likely retention of tainted institutions and people will be one of the most striking dilemmas of the new order. The civil machinery that was created by the apartheid state and employed for implementing apartheid is now being asked to usher in the anti-apartheid polity.
The explanation for “the dearth of capacity to support leadership in the democratic movement by formulating coherent and viable perspectives on economic policy” lies not only in the legacy of apartheid education. After all, thirty years of exile with hundreds of scholarships for those who sought asylum in the East and West should have produced a fair core of competent progressive economists, quite apart from the opportunities for black students at the liberal English-speaking universities. The absence of economic skills in the opposition is also due to an internal “progressive” sentiment and a norm of exile education that dismissed studies of “bourgeois economics” as not only a waste of time but a sellout to the system. Now the ANC will have to pay the price of keeping such myths alive rather than preparing itself to administer the country.
Likewise, the internal opposition had demonized the state and capital to such an extent that any professional training in its method of operation smacked of treason. Braan Fleisch has aptly described the self-imposed distance from tainted skills: “For those who remained in the country for the intense years of the struggle, there was never even a thought about running, controlling and administering an advanced industrial society. The enemy was business, business methods and business mentality. The state was the enemy. No one wanted to understand how the state ran the country, the principal concern was how the state was used as a mechanism of repression. In place of the state, activists posited a romantic notion about popular participation” (Searchlight South Africa, July 1991). Victoria Brittain, in a nostalgic memorial to the socialist dream, has described the word progressive for Southern African activists as meaning “being led by nationalist governments organised on Marxist-Leninist models learned in the schools of eastern Europe, where students from both parties got an education way beyond the dreams of colonial Africa” (Southern Africa Report [Toronto], July 1991). As long as it is still not openly acknowledged within the ANC that this kind of education does not help to solve South Africa’s problems, no well-meaning foreign economic expertise and training will make much of a difference. Political education within the ANC as well as other movements seems almost as important as the acquisition of managerial skills.
Unless effective affirmative action programs ensure a more representative managerial class, both in the public and private sectors, effective apartheid will continue as a nameless condition, despite the new constitution. Since the South African private sector can finance its own managerial needs in well-endowed business schools, it is the neglected area of public administration that needs most attention.
To train black managers and administrators within South Africa rather than abroad seems both more cost-effective and appropriate. Granting scholarships for study abroad made sense when adequate educational facilities for blacks did not exist in South Africa. Apart from specialized graduate studies abroad, foreign educational assistance could now be spent inside the country far more beneficially, achieving a greater impact with limited resources and also reducing the brain drain, as fewer foreign students would be living abroad for long periods.
On the other hand, there is a case to be made for encouraging South African students to attend universities abroad for a period. The total change of environment, the experience of a new political culture, and the opportunity for renewed self-esteem, for black students particularly, are not inconsequential for their future leadership roles. Many prominent blacks speak about study abroad as having increased their self-confidence. The positive experiences of being in a new setting, free of the stigma of race and all its self-fulfilling expectations, and of being considered an authority on developments in one’s country do have empowering effects. Those who argue the most loudly in favor of cost-effective approaches are all too often members of the privileged group who fail to appreciate such personal experiences.
The disbursement of educational assistance, however, takes place within an intense political contest inside South Africa. To receive foreign support or be left out of sponsorship affects the standing of competing black political organizations and their associated institutions and members. Individuals may even choose to join organizations not for ideological reasons but solely for individual advancement. Sheer survival coerces others to join, as when Black Consciousness adherents fled South Africa during the late 1970s and found to their surprise that they had to link up with the rival ANC if they wanted scholarships and opportunities for advancement. A similar informal coercion exists within Natal/KwaZulu, where often Inkatha membership remains a precondition for a career in the civil service or even for obtaining vital necessities.