/ 14 June 2024

MEC Mbali Hlophe is confident that she delivered on her mandate

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She was successful in changing the perception of the people of Gauteng about agriculture

As the curtain comes down on the sixth Gauteng administration, various departments are winding up their activities to prepare for the incoming leadership. Mbali Hlophe, Gauteng MEC of Social Development (DSD) and Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment (GDARDE), sat down with the Mail & Guardian to reflect on her achievements and challenges, and how she navigated them.

Top of mind when she took over was to ensure the two departments, which used to operate separately, worked seamlessly together on five key priorities, namely: food security, substance abuse, homelessness, skills development and environmental sustainability.

She said what kept her awake at night was the deep-rooted financial and widespread malfeasance in the DSD. A number of senior officials in critical roles are alleged to have been party to the maladministration of millions meant for the poor. The first thing she did was to institute consequence management, culminating in precautionary suspensions against 14 officials, which led to their disciplinary cases. She referred the matter to the Department of Finance to forensically take the matter to finality.

Hlophe said she is leaving with a sense of accomplishment because since she took over, the DSD has received 82% — the highest performance since 2016 in terms of its targets on the annual performance plan. The MEC has also been successful in changing the perception of the people of Gauteng about agriculture. She said more communities can produce their own food, feed themselves and thus restore their dignity.

The MEC ensured agriculture was made more appealing to the youth, because she strongly believes the next set of billionaires in Africa will be from agriculture. She also introduced young people to urban agricultural practices such as rooftop and vertical farming. In addition, she exposed them to entrepreneurial opportunities such as waste management, subsistence farming and agro-processing. Finally, she launched Farm Yard together with Thoko Didiza, former Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development — an innovative agricultural project developed to rejuvenate the township economy.