/ 21 February 2020

Municipalities need youthful leaders

DA Midvaal mayor happy with progress
Midvaal Municipality Mayor Bongani Baloyi poses for a portrait during an interview on August 04, 2016 in Midvaal, South Africa. (Gallo Images/Sowetan/Alon Skuy)


South Africa has a dearth of credible and ethical public officials and leaders. Municipalities are in a poor and undesirable state, as described in the 2019 auditor general’s report. This is as a result of local government role players being slow in enforcing — and, in many instances disregarding — the audit office’s recommendations on how to successfully and efficiently run a municipality.

Municipal reports display a poor quality of financial statements and performance reports, high levels of noncompliance with governance laws, irregular expenditure, and delays in the tabling of annual reports to councils. Thus, accountability for financial and performance management continues to deteriorate in almost all municipalities.

A municipal leader ought to be an accountable and transparent individual who is able to produce high-quality service to the community, positively affect the lives of citizens, and do so by maintaining the financial health of the municipality. The municipality of the Midvaal in Gauteng, south of Johannesburg, has found itself such a leader in its executive mayor, the Democratic Alliance’s Bongani Baloyi.

Young people of Baloyi’s calibre embody the optimism, creativity, hope, energy and forgiveness that is urgently needed in this country. Their energy and idealism propel them to take risks, to look beyond obstacles and to develop innovative solutions. Young leaders thrive in collaborative learning environments that emphasise the knowledge, skills and resources needed to maximise their contributions. But the youth will need the support of everyone, including the government and the private sector, as well as civil society, if they are to fulfill their potential.

Baloyi, 32, has definitely ticked the boxes of a remarkable young leader since he first stepped into office in 2013, making him the youngest mayor in South Africa. This milestone allowed him to become a man who has challenged the status quo and does not conform to the norms of civil society. Baloyi is, without a speck of doubt, an agent of change and seasoned leader rather than a mediocre politician. He is passionate about creating massive and positive change in this country.

Midvaal has seen a dramatic change and economic growth under his leadership, as he set himself the task of maintaining stability and continuity in the municipality, while also constantly seeking out ways to improve its performance.

Baloyi has intensified organisational improvement by elevating performance evaluation to management levels, grown the contribution of agriculture to the municipality’s finances, managed the continuation of residential growth, and led the municipality towards a more inclusive, integrated and prosperous future. Furthermore, Midvaal has gone on to achieve six consecutive clean audits since 2013.

A clean audit refers to a financially unqualified opinion by the auditor general, indicating that each of the financial records provided by the municipality has no material findings against them or misrepresentations, and are in accordance with the law and regulations relating to spending of public funds. A clean audit symbolises continued commitment to render service effectively and timeously to residents. Midvaal municipality was able to achieve this because of its commitment to ensuring good governance and having a team of diligent and honest municipal staff, including senior officials who work hard to ensure that regular monitoring and evaluation occurs.

The central message of the auditor general’s latest report identifies that accountability for financials and performance management in local government continues to deteriorate rapidly. It was discovered that only 18 municipalities managed to produce quality financial statements and performance reports.

Midvaal was, and still is, the only municipality in Gauteng that the auditor general found to be consistently performing well and obtaining clean governance. It remains the best-performing municipality in Gauteng and continues to receive countless awards for clean governance and sustainability.

In his 2018-2019 report, auditor general Kimi Makwetu commended Midvaal for sustaining a clean audit for the past five years. This was as a result of the municipality institutionalising a number of best practices, such as timeously monitoring the implementation of action plans and effectively applying consequences. The auditor general even suggested that such practices should be replicated across the province.

Baloyi was also complimented and praised by Gauteng Premier David Makhura, shortly after the national elections last year. Makhura even said he would personally take on Baloyi as one of his advisors. This bipartisan remark surely came as a bombshell to many, but it remains to be seen whether the premier is committed to this action.

Baloyi’s work has proved to be the gold standard. He maintains that every institution ought to remain sustainable and viable; should have strong, clear leadership; should be committed to good governance; and, most importantly, understand that they are in government to serve no one else but the people. His wisdom would come very much in handy to poorly performing municipalities in the Vaal Triangle that fail in delivering services to their residents; municipalities that lack clean audits, reliable leadership and consequence management. These municipalities are grappling with consequence management as they fail to deal with contamination in their institutions decisively and effectively.

Consequence management is a system created by officials to reprimand their corrupt fellow officials or individuals in authority who mismanage funds. This system is meant to ensure that any mismanagement of funds or failure to of transparency or accountability by public officials is dealt with in a harsh manner. All management and officials are familiar with the system of consequence management. Therefore, they have no excuse not to deal with corrupt individuals accordingly.

The unfortunate part is that this elite leadership will not have to live with the economic decisions they are making. South Africa is suffering because of bad economic decisions made by selfish leaders — leaders who are stuck in the old regime and are clueless about modern, effective styles of governance. Youth involvement threatens the imbalance of power that favours the adult-dominated society that promotes and perpetuates elitism, collusion, and the exploitation of women and children when making economic decisions.

It is easy for leaders to patronise young people because the former exist within a political structure that has been built explicitly to accommodate their type of politics: a slow, bureaucratic, opaque process overseen by people who are far more invested in their own reputations and interests than those they represent.

Next month Baloyi will table his state of the municipality address. With his previous success and his track record of many clean audits, it is plausible that complacency may set in. We cannot bet on Baloyi returning to office for yet another term after the local elections, but he can still make a difference and aspire to make a change in the leadership of our country. There is most certainly enough room for him to use his unconventional methodology and dynamic leadership skills in the public sector.

This is also a crucial time in South Africa: there is a need for a rise in the number of young leaders and, as identified by Baloyi, youth development is one of the critical areas that need intervention to alleviate poverty, high unemployment and socioeconomic troubles. But how is he contributing to this development?

Baloyi has initiated the Kgatelopele Youth Development Programme, which aims to place young people at the centre of maintaining service delivery, infrastructure and agriculture. This is an excellent, municipal-funded initiative, and it hoped that Baloyi continues to nurture tomorrow’s leaders, who will take the reins in shifting South Africa’s economic state.

Sello Ivan Phahle is the managing director of SIP Media. He writes in his personal capacity