Thusong Service Week: taking public services to South Africans

14 September 2015

South Africa launched Thusong Service Week yesterday, to run from Monday to Friday, 14 to 18 September, this year.

It is a week of heightened communication on the achievements of the Thusong Service Programme and forms part of Public Service Month, a Batho Pele revitalisation strategy to encourage good ethics, morale and pride among public servants.

The main hubs of the campaign are the numerous Thusong Service Centres, where information about government services – and access to those services – is made available to peri-urban and rural communities. Previously known as multi- purpose community centres, they were set up in 1999 as a primary vehicle for the implementation of development communication and information, integrating government services into primarily rural communities.

There are 185 Thusong Service Centres in 107 local municipalities countrywide. From these, an additional 114 integrated mobile facilities take government services to more rural areas. Here, South Africans can access government services such as grants, personal documents and housing applications, as well as adult basic education and training, and advice for small business development.

They can also make use of free office services such as phone, fax, scan, copy, print and post.

Now in its 16th year, the programme continues to build access not only to government information and services, but it also offers a place where people can get access to opportunities offered by other civil society groups, including businesses, NGOs and parastatals. It addresses historical, social and economic factors which limited access to information, services and participation by citizens who previously had to travel long distances to access these services.

Ethics and morale

Thusong Service Week would encourage public servants to deliver high quality services in support of government priorities, as well as to commit themselves to improve the way they work to deliver them, said the acting director-general in the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS), Donald Liphoko. He was speaking at the launch in Dududu in KwaZulu-Natal this past weekend.

“The Thusong Service Centre Programme is one of the first unique initiatives implemented by (the) government which integrates services across the three spheres (national, provincial and local government).”

Liphoko said while there was a concern about the culture of public servants not doing what they were hired to do, of public servants becoming too arrogant to serve the public, “it is imperative to remind the public servants that they have the role to play in ensuring that citizens gets the service that they deserve”.

The week had been set aside to inform citizens about the services, information and opportunities available, and to encourage public servants to deliver high quality services in support of government priorities, recommitting themselves towards improving the way they worked to deliver them, Liphoko explained.

Public-private partnerships

Public and private partnerships were key to bring service delivery to residents, he said, adding that “over the past seven years, we have progressively increased the number of public-private partnerships covering a wide range of sectors”. This was in line with the call by President Jacob Zuma in his State of the Nation address earlier this year for more private enterprise partnerships with public services that ensured equal privileges for all South Africans.

“Public and private partnership is key to bringing service delivery to the people in this country. Over the past seven years, we have progressively increased the number of public-private partnerships covering a wide range of sectors.”

Through the Thusong Service Centres, approximately five million people gained access to services from the government, parastatals and community-based organisations each year, Liphoko said.

“These centres help in promoting service delivery programmes, transfer of skills, employment creation and providing information on business opportunities for those who are interested in starting their own business.”

SAinfo reporter