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Keynote Address by the Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development, the Hon JH Jeffery, MP, at the Service Excellence Awards Gala Event of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, held at the Protea Hotel, OR Tambo, 28 September 2017

Programme Director,
The Director-General, Mr Madonsela,
Ladies and gentlemen

September marks Public Service Month in South Africa.  

As you know, the theme for 2017 is "Together Moving the Public Service Forward: We Belong, We Care, We Serve." 

Public Service Month is about celebrating the value and the virtue of service to the community.

It is about acknowledging those public servants who make the Batho Pele principles real.

Batho Pele is a Sesotho phrase meaning “people first”, a phrase that the public service has embodied as part of an initiative to strive for excellence in service delivery and to commit public servants to continuous service delivery improvement.

Perhaps Batho Pele is best explained in the words of the late President Mandela when he said, in this case about public servants in the health sector, that –

“Whether you change the linen or stitch up wounds, cook the food or dispense the medicines, it is in your hands to help build a public service worthy of all those who gave their lives for the dream of democracy.”

Each and every public servant must help to ensure a public service worthy of those who died for our freedom.

As we also, in this month of September, honour those who fought for freedom and dedicated their lives to ensure that we live in a constitutional democracy, we recommit ourselves to creating a public service that would do them proud.

If Ma Lillian Ngoyi were here today, if Chris Hani were here today, if Steve Biko were here today, would they be proud of the service we are giving to the public?

We must honour their legacy by ensuring that we do.

Public Service Month is about celebrating and recognising public servants and their contribution to the lives of ordinary people by putting people first.

It serves as a reminder of what it means to serve communities and to also look at the overall impact government has, especially around issues of service delivery.

All of us are in the service of our people. This means that we must roll up our sleeves, talk to the people we are serving, mediate the delivery of services and getting things done, ensure that systems and infrastructure are working and use public resources efficiently to the benefit of our people.

In short, in means caring enough to make a meaningful difference.

For us, here in our Department, the Service Excellence Awards Policy was first launched by the former Minister in September 2013.
This initiative seeks to standardise and streamline the approach in respect of Service Excellence Awards within the Department and to, above all, acknowledge excellence within the Department. Service Excellence Awards are bestowed annually to individuals and /or teams for innovation, service excellence achieved through the implementation of Batho Pele principles, achievement of Departmental outputs and targets, and practicing departmental core business values and other principles of good governance.

To ensure objectivity and fairness, an independent panel of adjudicators was appointed, including members of labour unions who served as observers. Composition of the panel included representatives from the Magistrates Commission, the Department of Correctional Services, various NGO’s, the National Prosecuting Authority and the Department of Public Service and Administration, as well as from NEHAWU and PSA, as observers.

If I can return to the words of late President Mandela - he often spoke of service to our people. He said:
“What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is the difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”

I want to congratulate each and every recipient of an award here this evening.
Thank you for making that difference. Thank you for putting our people first.
Never underestimate the change that you can make in the lives of others.

I thank you.