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Johannesburg - If public servants want salary increases, government must see returns on its investment, President Jacob Zuma said on Thursday.
“We want public servants to work hard and make us see the benefits of improving salaries and conditions of service,” Zuma told community development workers in Boksburg, on the East Rand.
“If citizens continue to complain about poor services it will mean we are not getting value for our money.”
If people complained about long queues at hospitals, licensing departments, and other frontline service departments, government was not doing its job efficiently.
Zuma was addressing the opening of a community development workers' conference hosted by the public service and administration department.
He said the batho pele (people first) principles the department was championing were not being implemented.
Earlier, Public Service Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said community workers at the conference should use Zuma's message responsibly by talking to their communities.
She called community development workers government's foot soldiers.
Zuma received a warm welcome when he took to the podium.
He said the current service delivery protests in some areas indicated the impatience and frustration felt by communities. It was important to improve communication with people.
Zuma said he relied on his ministers, councillors, and public servants to make sure people's needs were taken care of. Keeping in touch with them would ease tensions.
“I'm aware of your concerns that government departments are sometimes lethargic in their response to service delivery concerns,” he told the community workers.
“Hence, I announced in the state-of-the-nation (address) the need for all to adhere to the Constitution with regards to protest action and freedom of expression.”
Zuma said he had instructed the justice, crime prevention, and security cluster to put measures in place to ensure violent protests were acted on, investigated, and those responsible prosecuted.
He called on community workers to help government spread the word that education was an important and essential service.
“It is for this reason that we are prioritising the remuneration of teachers in the work of the remuneration commission that we are establishing to look at the working conditions of public servants in general.
“When you engage parents, school governing bodies, and other stakeholders, you should reiterate government's seriousness in turning our schools into centres of excellence, thus elevating education to its rightful place in our society.”
He said teachers needed to be in school on time teaching. At the same time children had to also arrive on time and have respect for teachers. Education had to be a number one priority.
“The less citizens of a country are educated, the less the development. The more citizens educated, the more developed (the country).”
Community development leaders needed to communicate this to residents in their areas.
During apartheid the vast majority of South Africans were not educated because they were told they do not need it.
“That is why we have a backlog today... People are unemployable because they don't have skills,” said Zuma. - Sapa