Steadfast and accountable leadership are qualities that are few and far between in the realm of South African politics and, indeed, the world over. A brand of leadership that reliably delivers quality service to the community time and time again is the kind of leadership that all those charged with public governance should aspire to.
The municipality of the Midvaal in Gauteng has found themselves such a gem in their executive mayor Bongani Baloyi. The municipality has, once again, made it into the top 8% of South Africa’s well-managed municipality rankings. This is according to Auditor General, Thembekile Kimi Makwetu’s report which he presented recently.
Baloyi, one of the youngest mayors in South Africa, has steered Midvaal to greater heights. It has climbed up to the sixth top-performing municipality from 16th in 2013.
Baloyi is described by many as a man who has relentlessly challenged the status quo, is an agent of change and a breaker only of stale, rigid rules that no longer serve a greater purpose. Midvaal has seen dramatic modifications, positively coupled with economic growth under Baloyi’s leadership. He has set himself the task of maintaining the stability and continuity in the institution, while also constantly finding ways to improve its performance. He has further intensified organisational performance, grown the contribution of agriculture to Midvaal’s gross domestic product, managed the continuation of residential growth and led Midvaal towards a more inclusive and prosperous future. The municipality has gone on to achieve six clean audits as a result.
Baloyi has stated that he attributes his successes of governance to the work of competent, capable staff who are meeting as well as exceeding expectations and ethical leadership at all levels.
His performance record should serve to dispel a few irrational myths that persist in governance. Some say that young people are incapable of leading public offices satisfactorily and that their “inexperience” will cost the institutions they lead dearly. Through the work of Baloyi and other young leaders who exist in the ranks of public sector governance, it is proven that they care more about future sustainability. This may be the result of being less invested in the past and having a greater willingness to challenge the status quo.
Baloyi embraced change and skillfully marketed his new ideas. Youthful leaders also generally have the courage to face daunting prospects. They know how to get others energised and excited about accomplishing objectives. They have a great need for achievement and put every ounce of passion into their goals. This, in turn, greatly benefits the institutions and communities they work for.
The earlier we, as society, can address the challenges faced by young people in the workplace and shore up their strengths; the more their organisations stand to benefit. Too many governance structures and private companies wait years to train new leaders to take up the reins.
This can affect those structures negatively when older people become complacent and perceive the status quo as sufficient. Patterns such as this breed mediocrity, lowered productivity and poor performance results.
Good governance in the public sector and in local government in particular has proved to be a mammoth task for most municipal administrations, if the latest municipal audit results are anything to go by. It is public knowledge that state funds were unashamedly mishandled by government officials.
Pre-existing deteriorating audit outcomes have gone on to demonstrate further regression in the 2018-2019 financial year, where most local government role players have been reluctant in implementation and, in some instances, totally disregarded the Auditor General’s recommendations. Among other remarks, Makwetu laments the lack of ethical leadership, accountability and poor governance in municipalities across the country.
Financial mismanagement continues to plague the modus operandi of municipalities countrywide. Public sector governance is brimming with partisan politicians who are no longer conscious of the fact that they are, in fact, public servants; employed to fulfill the basic needs of members of the communities they lead. Most are instead invested in the pursuit of self-enrichment at the expense of poor South Africans.
Risk management teams in public governance need to take heed and implement quick, reliable and skilled consequence management strategies.
Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni’s supplementary budget, which was presented in June shows that gross national debt will be disappointingly high by the end of this year, equalling 81.8% of the GDP by the end of 2020. The South African economy is expected to contract by 7.2% in 2020, this being its largest contraction in nearly 90 years.
Ethical leadership along with effective consequence management strategies would definitely go a long way in smoothing the road ahead.
With consistently clean audits evidencing great consequence management, honest leadership and spending as well as a very low unemployment rate, Midvaal municipality sets the bar very high.
This is not an impossible standard to reach, so we can only hope that other administrations will follow suit.