A winning team

Premier Willies Mchunu and Director-General Dr. Nonhlanhla Mkhize are poised to ignite growth in KZN

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Under the leadership of Premier Willies Mchunu, who is supported by the dynamic Director-General Dr Mkhize, the province of KwaZulu Natal is set to become an economic powerhouse positioned to put South Africa on a path of rejuvenated growth and development.

New growth path

Deployed by the ANC to be the Premier of the Province of KwaZulu-Natal in September 2016, Mchunu has embarked on a programme aimed at putting the province on a new trajectory of socio-economic development.

Mchunu says the focus of government is on building a stronger KZN socially and economically.

Premier Mchunu drives service delivery in KwaZulu Natal through Operation Sukuma Sakhe, a programme that delivers government directly to the beneficiaries enabling them to take decisions regarding their own communities. Operation Sukuma Sakhe is a multi-sectoral structure in which stakeholders identify problems at local level and together with government isolate possible solutions.

In turn, Operation Sakhe is alinged to KZN's Provincial Growth Development Plan.

Growth and development

The National Growth and Development Plan remains the only document since the adoption of the Freedom Charter that will unite people of this country for many more years to come.

When KZN's own Provincial Growth Development Plan (PGDP) was developed, it was deliberately aligned to the NDP in order to unite the people of KwaZulu-Natal behind a common goal of creating a prosperous province for future generations.

The PGDP is essentially a 20-year plan to grow the economy of the province for the improvement of the quality of life of all people living there.

As stated in the PGDP, the vision of the province is succinct: "By 2035, the province of KwaZulu-Natal should have maximised its position as a gateway to South and Southern Africa, as well as its human and natural resources so creating a safe, healthy and sustainable living environment. Abject poverty, inequality, unemployment and the current disease burden should be history, basic services must have reached all of its people, domestic and foreign investors are attracted by world class infrastructure and a skilled labour force. The people shall have options on where and how they opt to live, work and play, where the principle of putting people first and where leadership, partnership and prosperity in action has become a normal way of life.”

In February 2011 the KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Executive Council tasked the Provincial Planning Commission (PPC) to lead the way in realising this vision by developing and advising it on matters related to:

  • A long term strategic development perspective and vision of the province,
  • Ensuring coherence in policy development and planning across Provincial Government; and
  • Strengthening performance monitoring and evaluation to assess the pace required to deliver on the desired outcomes by 2035.

The PPC comprises nine commissioners, eight part-time commissioners and a full-time chairperson appointed by the premier to serve for a period of five years. The PPC seeks to complement the National Planning Commission (NPC), advises and makes recommendations to a Planning Sub-Committee of Cabinet on matters related to:

  • A long-term strategic development perspective and vision of the province;
  • Ensuring coherence in policy development and planning across the Provincial Government; and
  • Strengthening performance monitoring and evaluation to assess the pace required to deliver on the desired outcomes.

When tasked with the development of the PGDP, the PPC first undertook a detailed Strategic Analysis of the Province, which details the status quo regarding each of the province’s sectors of growth and development and seeks answers to various questions including questions like:

  • How and where do we create sustainable jobs that build on our growing integration into Southern Africa, Africa and the world?
  • How do we ensure that our people, and in particular our youth, have the education and skills to take up these job opportunities?
  • How do we address social ills and restore pride in communities that are prepared to work hard at improving their quality of life?
  • How do we reduce crime, violence and corruption?

After a broad consultation process, the PGDS (Provincial Growth Development Strategy) was adopted in principle by the Provincial Executive Council in August 2011, noting the need to prepare a detailed implementation plan in the form of the PGDP. It was also emphasised that the PGDS and the PGDP should be fully aligned to the National Development Plan.

From the very first version of the PGDP the focus has been on identifying the indicators that will be used to measure progress of movement towards the Vision, and the setting of targets to be achieved by 2015, 2020, 2025 and 2035. The PPC has been facilitating and supporting the lead departments to develop these detailed trajectories to ensure that the roadmap is and remains absolutely clear on what is required to achieve the 2035 Vision for KwaZulu-Natal. The PGDP further identifies specific interventions and catalytic projects which is intended to propel the province towards achieving the set targets.

The first version of the PGDP was subsequently adopted at the August 2012 Executive Council Lekgotla with an instruction for all departmental work plans to be aligned with the PGDP. The PPC was also tasked to ensure that the PGDP is refined as it is implemented and that refined versions be presented to PEC Lekgotla, usually convened in February and August each year.

According to the PGDP, KZN by 2035 should be a prosperous province with a healthy, secure and skilled population, acting as a gateway to Africa and the world.

The plan outlines: job creation, human resource development, human and community development, strategic infrastructure, environmental sustainability, governance and policy and spatial equity as strategic goals that need to be achieved. The goals and objectives are to be implemented within an enabling institutional framework with support from civil society, organised business and labour groups.

In essence the PGDP is about the systems put in place to achieve the 2035 Vision for the Province by:

  • Creating jobs through developing and optimising opportunities in the various sectors of the KZN economy;
  • Developing the skills of people in the province to ensure that it is them who will benefit from the jobs the province hopes to create;
  • Ensuring that the human and social environment is conducive to a healthy, safe and secure living environment for all people living in the province;
  • Promoting the development of strategic infrastructure to support social, economic and environmental development in KZN;
  • Ensuring that sustainable development practices are adhered to at all times;
  • Promoting good governance practices and policy alignment to support this growth and development trajectory for KZN; and
  • Facilitating spatial equity to ensure that all geographic regions of the province receive attention and are optimally developed.

A woman of great responsibility

She is indeed a lady of many "firsts". In almost all the different levels that Dr. Nonhlanhla Mkhize had to find herself, she was either pioneering or heralding change, whether as a Chief Director within the public service or as a Director-General. Other than this, she boasts extensive experience as an academic in the area of languages. On 1 August 2017, Premier Willies Mchunu of KwaZulu Natal announced her as the first woman Director General since the dawn of democracy in 1994 in this province.

Her career in the public service has taken her into different regions of the two spheres of government (the national and the provincial). She has served in her home province of KwaZulu Natal and in Mpumalanga province at the national government level.

She was the first Director-General in the Ministry of Women, Children and People with Disabilities.

She did a lot of pioneering work in facilitating the drafting of the Geographical Names Council Bill, and coordinating its legislative process until it became an Act. While heading the National Language Services under the auspices of the then Department of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology, she initiated and facilitated the implementation of telephone interpreting services for South Africa, which was piloted in all national depatments. This was after the government had moved away from the policy of bilingualism (which showed a bias towards Afrikaans and English), and moved towards multilingualism (inclusive of all the 11 official languages of South Africa).

Because she is such a language fundi, she was central in the establishment of the Pan South African Language Board (PANSALB), the South African Geographical Names Council, and the Provincial Language Policy Desk.

After this stint in the national set-up, she came back to her home province in KwaZulu Natal. "During this period we experienced so many losses in the family, I lost more than one family member. This, even though I am not first-born, necessitated that I return home to assume familial responsibilities. I like to take responsibility," she says.

While back in the province she established the Human Rights Directorate within the Office of the Premier. Its duties entailed an oversight role on issues affecting senior citizens, women, people with disabilities, the youth and children. She later became the Chief Director on Policy and Governance within the same Office.

She was then appointed as the first woman Director-General in the province of Mpumalanga. When asked her as to whether it was right to stereotype the province of KwaZulu-Natal as being steeped in patriarchy and misogyny, relating to her appointment, she says, "I do not want to be seen as the affirmative action appointee. If we are capable and have the expertise, then we must be given opportunities. The women in the province of KwaZulu-Natal are happy that the Executive Council took the decision to empower women by appointing the Director-General based on the criteria of capacity and experience. We are also happy that the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government is serious and committed to ensuring that there is 50/50 gender parity representation.”

Knowing that she was one of the pioneers in the Geographical Names Council, we could not resist the chance of seeking to establish her stance in reaction to the wide-held belief that KwaZulu-Natal is not up to speed with the principles of name correction and name changing. 'While I am not in that space,” she asserts, “the processes involved in this project sometimes render unexpected results and sometimes hinder progress regarding this program. It is, for example, the distortion of history that renders the desire to change names. The inappropriately named Mangosuthu Highway is a case in point.”

As to the deficits within the Office of the Premier, the DG chooses to be very technical and diplomatic. "My take is that generally what the public sector needs is its professionalisation, and by professionalisation we do not only mean the professionalisation of the public sector. The government needs to create a conducive environment for professionalisation to exist and thrive. There must be less politicisation of the institutions. Capacity and capability ought to be guiding forces, and these must be coupled by good progressive policies. These progressive policies must be implemented so as to change the lives of the people. All these are impossible if there is no consequence management, and the absence of an accountability chain is palpable. The accountability chain must never be broken; it must not matter how senior one is. It must be an imperative that all should be held accountable, and this must include accounting for public funds," she asserts passionately.

When officially announcing the appointment of Dr. Mkhize to this august office on 1 August 2017, Premier Willies Mchunu emphasised that the DG would be central to the ensuring of the goals of the National Development Plan (NDP). The province already has a structure that is aligned to the NDP goals. The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Planning Commission heads the Provincial Growth and Development Strategy Plan.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution is one of the significant pillars to this end, and conscious of this fact, KwaZulu-Natal is already polishing and refining its ICT strategy. "As a matter of fact, we are working with the Department of Postal and Telecommunications Services (DPTS) and the Council for Scientific and industrial Research (CSIR). The review of the strategy shall assist in assessing the status of ICT in the province, identifying the necessary ICT infrastructure, and the need for optic fibre, so as to be able to address the needs specific to the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Our ICT strategy must speak to the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme, and it must include government programmes, buildings and schools," she emphasises.

She asserts that as a build-up to the World Telecoms ITU Conference to be held in Durban, in September of the current year, specific events have been put in place. While these would be seen as engagements, they shall serve as programme activations. Districts of the province shall be clustered so as to reflect geographical proximity and different sectors of the community shall be part of this process.

An event for Women and Youth in Business is planned in July. People living with disabilities shall also form part of this, as will business people within this sector. There is another special focus on women in August.

During the ITU World Telecom Conference itself, there shall be a South African Village, and KZN has been allotted a large space for Small, Medium and Micro Enterprises (SMMEs) in the ICT space.

Other than this, in its pursuance of the goals of the NDP, youth empowerment and specifically the Fourth Industrial Revolution, the Office of the Premier shall be launching Youth Mobile Offices in partnership with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). These are fully equipped with satellite internet and all forms of technology. They shall serve as information-providing centres for the youth looking for different opportunities; these could be in business, job-seeking, and for those looking for study opportunities. "We have noted that young people's dreams are stifled and buried because they do not have access to centres that facilitate the requisite information," she states with optimism. While the NYDA shall provide one of these centres, the province shall provide eleven.

There are also fifty million rands that have been set aside by the Office of the Premier in order to establish the Youth Empowerment Fund. Known as seed funding, it seeks to assist upcoming and aspiring young business people. It shall also cater for those that are already in business and are experiencing minor setbacks in the running of their business. The tenets of “Sukuma Sakhe” shall inspire how this functions. Sukuma Sakhe is the motto on the crest of the provincial government of KwaZulu Natal. It has biblical origins, echoing the words of the Prophet Nehemiah who seeks to rebuild a city that has been destroyed. As stated on the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government website, “The origin of Masisukuma Sakhe, which is the motto on the crest of the Provincial Government of KwaZulu-Natal, is taken from the Prophet Nehemiah 2:18, where he yearns to rebuild a city that has been destroyed. Operation Sukuma Sakhe then is a call for the people of KwaZulu-Natal to be determined to overcome the issues that have destroyed the communities such as poverty, unemployment, crime, substance abuse, HIV/AIDS and TB.”

In response to concerns as to whether this was not a duplication of some of the programmes that have failed in the province, Dr. Mkhize is quick to retort. "We have identified areas that are weaknesses, and these are mostly around implementation. We have to decrease the number of projects that we are investing in, so that we have less projects that are sufficiently budgeted for so that they have an impact."

With 11 months in office, Dr Mkhize still has many tasks ahead of her, and the drive, passion and integrity to achieve them. The people of KwaZulu-Natal are praying hard that this senior servant will be the one to deliver the key to prosperity and the South African dream.

First Female Director-General for KZN, Dr. Nonhlanhla Mkhize

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