15.9.2009

Zuma Takes Calls As Hotline to Presidency is Finally Launched

Johannesburg — THE much-anticipated presidential hotline, which the government believes will make it more accessible to the public, was launched yesterday.

President Jacob Zuma, who first touted the toll-free hotline during his election campaign, has said it should be used to make public servants more accountable.

"The hotline and public liaison service aims to encourage an all- round improvement in citizen care and liaison and introduce a culture of putting the citizen first in all government departments as well as municipalities, as part of the president's directive to create an interactive, accessible and responsive government," Vusi Mona, the Presidency's deputy director-general for communications, said yesterday.

He said Zuma took a couple of calls early yesterday, which included a woman from Mt Frere in the Eastern Cape who complained about ill-treatment she had received at her local magistrate's court.

Her husband died in 2006 and she has been attempting to access his pension. Another caller from Benoni said he was disappointed that his suburb had been experiencing a sewage leak for months. The hotline received 7261 calls between 9am and noon.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) described the hotline as a wonderful initiative, saying that if it was properly implemented it would make a real difference to the way in which public representatives performed.

DA parliamentary leader Athol Trollip said the initiative could not become a one-way outlet for public anger that did nothing more than allow South Africans to register a complaint. "If it is to have a real impact, it needs to produce outcomes. And those outcomes must take the form of action against those individuals who abuse public faith for their own ends," he said.

He said the DA would register examples of corruption and mismanagement recorded in the press or brought to the party's attention every week. It would also release these details to the public every week and in time check what had been done about the complaints through parliamentary questions.

DA spokesman Gareth van Onselen said his party registered its first complaint after 80 minutes of waiting, with much of the time spent being put on hold and the cut-off. At other times the line was engaged.

Members of the public can lodge their complaints by dialling 17737. The hotline and public liaison staff in the Presidency will be backed by 43 newly assigned public liaison officers in all government departments and offices of premiers. (ALL AFRICA)

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