Some curious facts from a ballooning presidency

by The Editor

ARTICLE: It is often stated that the ANC is centralising power in the presidency. But what do the facts say? One way to find out is to look at its annual reports over time, which list the number of staff it employs. Sure enough, the evidence illustrates it is an ever-increasing bureaucracy. In fact, it has more than doubled in size over the last nine years. With that has come an increase in support staff, a great many of whom are dedicated to comfort rather than policy.

Some curious facts from a ballooning presidency

By: Gareth van Onselen

7 June 2012

It often stated, by the DA in particular, that over the last ten years – starting with President Mbeki and expedited under President Zuma – power is being centralised in the Presidency. But what are the facts? Well, the best way of determining an answer is to look at the annual reports for the presidency. And, sure enough, they demonstrate it is growing at an ever-increasing rate.

With that increase, though, come various administrative posts – the ‘logistical support’, if you will – and so, one obvious contingent question is, to what extent has a ballooning presidency created the need for more positions which exist merely to accommodate and facilitate the work of those charged with making actual policy? Here too, the numbers tell a certain story.

First, a word about the methodology: every annual report is produced in pro forma fashion. One standard section is a Human Resources report; within it, a table which breaks down the staff of any given department by critical occupation. It sets out the number of people that department employs by position. By comparing the numbers year-on-year, you can see how the overall size of the department has grown; likewise, the growth in personnel employed for each specific job.

The presidency’s website only carries its annual report going back to 2002/2003, so let’s use that has our primary comparative point of reference.

By the end of the 2003 financial year, the presidency employed 367 people. Of these, it employed a great deal of support staff, of various different sorts. But let us look at those positions which deal more with ensuring comfort, than facilitating hard outcomes. For example, in 2003 the presidency employed:

• 9 Food Service Aids and Waiters
• 42 Household and Laundry-Related Workers
• 9 Motor Vehicle Drivers
• 7 Logistical Support Workers

I have not included positions like secretaries (60 in 2003) which are more directly concerned with the presidency’s actual outcomes, than the comfort of its incumbents.

So, how has this changed over time?

Well, overall, the number of people employed in the presidency has increased dramatically. For the 2010/11 financial year, the number of posts in the presidency had increased to 940 (of which 636 were filled). That represents a growth of 256%. In other words, the presidency has increased in size two and a half times in nine years.

• 2002/2003: 367 posts
• 2003/2004: 369
• 2004/2005: Link to report broken
• 2005/2006: 582
• 2006/2007: 622
• 2007/2008: 599
• 2008/2009: 684
• 2009/2010: 735
• 2010/2011: 940

With that growth, however, has come an increase in support staff. The number of secretaries, for example, has increased to 116. Likewise, there has been an increase in the number of those positions dedicated to ensuring the comfort of those principles in the presidency. As of 2011, it had made provision for the following number of posts:

• 58 Food Service Aids and Waiters
• 57 Household and Laundry-Related Workers
• 31 Motor Vehicle Drivers
• 25 Logistical Support Workers

To put that in perspective, between those four categories, the presidency now has 171 positions dedicated to driving, laundry, household upkeep and logistical support. That is roughly half the total number of staff it employed in 2003.

And the increases have been fairly systematic.

Take the number of drivers, for example, here is the growth in these posts over the last five years:

• 2005/2006: 19
• 2006/2007: 13
• 2007/2008: 20
• 2008/2009: 19
• 2009/2010: 25
• 2010/2011: 31

Why, between the President and the Deputy President, the presidency needs 31 drivers is a question worth pursuing. It is true the presidency now also houses the department of national planning and monitoring and evaluation, but that is just two more ministers (neither of whom have deputies), and even before they were appointed – in 2009 – the number had already increased to 19.

The emphasis the ANC executive places on status and luxury is now well known. Its willingness to splash out on expensive cars, for example, has become a notorious habit. It is doubtful these people actually drive principles – maybe some of them do – usually that is the responsibility of the presidency’s security detail, and they report to and are housed in the SAPS. Nevertheless, it seems an awful lot. Perhaps a parliamentary question is in order.

I wonder what the situation in other national departments is?

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