Address By The Minister Of Cooperative Governance And Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Ms Thembi Nkadimeng During The Occasion Of The Inaugural Staff Meeting CoGTA Held On The 08th May 2023, At The Head Offices Of CoGTA, 87 Hamilton Street, Pretoria And Through Virtual Platforms

Programme Director; DG Mashwahle Diphofa;
Deputy Minister Mpho Parks Tau for the Department of Cooperative Governance.
Deputy Minister Prince Burns-Ncamashe for the Department of Traditional Affairs.
Director General of DCOG Mr Mbulelo Tshangane;
Director General Diphofa of DTA;
Acting CEO of MISA Ms Pati Kgomo;
Our Senior Management Team from the three Departments;
Members of the Organised Labour;
Support staff in the political offices
Our staff members present here and those joining us via virtual platforms.
Good morning!

I extend my warmest greetings and sincere gratitude to you for having honoured our invitation to attend this important gathering between ourselves as members of the Executive and the staff.

This gathering is crucially important because it takes place after several changes were effected in the department, both at the Political and Administrative levels.

And it is against this backdrop, a Greek philosopher once remarked that: “Change is the only constant in life”. Indeed, change is inevitable, and we must have an appreciation that change is part of our day-to-day life experiences.

We are here colleagues following the changes made by His Excellency President Ramaphosa when he reconfigured the national cabinet on the 6th of March 2023. The new reconfigured cabinet resulted in these three political principals we see today, being given a collective responsibility to lead the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, effectively and efficiently consistent with its Constitutional and legislative mandate.

Programme Director; I must hasten to indicate that this department is not new, it has been in existence before our respective appointments. There have been leaders who came before us. Ours, therefore, is not to reinvent the wheel and bring something completely new. Our immediate task at hand is to up the ante and herald a new sense of urgency in how we have been working. Ours is to partner and collaborate with the estimated 900-plus workforce to bring about the much-needed change in terms of doing our work earnestly, diligently and with dedication in ensuring the realisation of the targets we set for ourselves as the department.

Colleagues, I will not consume and waste much of your time, especially in lecturing you about the significant importance of our department and its expectations within the broader Public Administration. Our mandate explicitly clear, is to give meaning to the spirit of cooperative governance and inter-governmental relations as encapsulated in the constitution. Section 154 of the Constitution tacitly articulates our mandate in terms of giving support to the 257 municipalities across the board. And in giving that support, it goes without saying that we must organise ourselves in such a manner that we will make a difference and positively impact the lives of South African citizens.

Furthermore, colleagues, our task is to ensure we actualise the vision of Developmental Local Government as set out in the 1998 white paper. As we meet here this morning, we need to collectively agree that the state of local government is not in good shape, it is perpetually in a state of collapse. We need to self-introspect and agree that the sector is deteriorating with daily signs of municipalities failing to meet their constitutional mandate, particularly in providing accountable governance and sustainable service delivery to the communities.

As we meet this morning colleagues, we also need to admit that our challenges are exacerbated by a variety of both objective and subjective factors confronting us. Objective factors include challenges of geo-political developments as well as constrained economic growth domestically. These global economic constraints were worsened by events such as the novel coronavirus in early 2020 which disrupted life across the board, the trade war between China-USA, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine geopolitical tension with major global supply chains resulting in escalating commodity prices such as oil, food etc. At the domestic level, our economy continues to stagnate with the major source being the energy crisis, collapsing infrastructure, crime & corruption, rising public debts, and declining revenue to raise but a few.

As the COGTA family, we are not spared from these negative domestic and global challenges. Notwithstanding all these challenges, we still have a moral, constitutional, professional and personal obligation to play our part in changing the situation for the better. Being negative, being armchair critiques, and lamenting does not add any value. We must not be like others who are good at re-stating the problem statement without solutions. Ours must be, out of these challenges, ensure opportunities must emerge. We must craft lasting solutions to our problems and ensure we take our government forward and to greater heights and prevent a situation where collective government services are now provided by the private sector, and if we allow public service to collapse; other forces will take advantage of the inability of government to perform its functions and sell these services to the people.

We are a chosen team of men and women of high moral ethical fibre, a 900-plus workforce of mandarins tasked with building a developmental government in South Africa, consistent with the philosophical injunction of the National Development Plan. The expectations are high, and the challenges are huge in return, however; not insurmountable. We have the ability to turn around this department and write a good story as part of the 6th Administration.

Myself working together with DM Tau and DM Ncamashe as well as the entire workforce have a responsibility to turn around the situation. It is against this background that we recalibrated our Annual Performance Plan to address the pressing challenges. We are beginning to accept that we are not in a position to address everything at the same time. We must Tylor make our interventions and align them to our capacity, our resources, and the time frame towards the 7th administration in May 2024. We must be mindful of the fact that we are spearheading the department during the last leg of the 6th Administration, in my view this is a historic moment in many respects and noting that next year is the 2024 General Elections.

Colleagues, ours is to ensure that we put into action the spirit of cooperative governance and inter-governmental relations. Through our flagship programme, the District Development Model, we are tasked to ensure government in its entirety works as a coherent machinery. This can only happen if we are internally organised at the level of strategy, policy, resources, systems, and human capital. We must also ensure that we harness our collective value system of a transformed public service as espoused in section 195 of the Constitution and clearly spell out in the batho pele principles. Our founding father of public service prof Sangweni always reminded us that Batho Pele principles are not a slogan but represent a policy statement of a truly transformed public service in line with the value system of a democratic state.

I also hold the view that sometimes we over-exaggerate the issue of capacity or lack thereof. In most, it is not about skills or capacity challenge that hinders progress but rather about issues of people management and leadership.  Issues such as lack of consequence management, weak internal controls and passive management are at the centre of our non-responsiveness.  As part of doing things the new way, we must change our attitude which sometimes borders on dereliction of duties. We must indeed refocus and rededicate ourselves towards batho pele principles, we must become agents of change in our own right.

Building a truly developmental state will require commitment, hard and dedication to the task at hand. I have absolute trust in our three accounting officers, I believe if all of us give them our undivided support, they will steer us to greater heights. Equally, I believe in the collective wisdom of the men and women gathered here today, I have no iota of doubt in my mind that you will carry forward the work of this department diligently. Historically this department used to be one of the most respected at the national level and even internationally, we must restore that prestige and bring back the glory. It goes without saying that the noble intentions of our flagship program which aims to bring intergraded approach across the three spheres of government will not succeed if COGTA itself is not well organised, so this department is at the centre of a national effort to bring about a coherent approach to delivering services.

We have a collective responsibility to revive our staff morale in this department and build a culture of teamwork. We must break the silos mentality and encourage a culture of working together as a team and raise our level of consciousness and work ethic. Part of building and cultivating this new culture is to ensure that we create a space for everybody to have a say. Things like suggestion boxes for staff to raise issues, quarterly branch meetings, and reviving internal sports, arts and culture activities for staff members must be encouraged. We must ensure that we are responsive in terms of addressing staff-related issues such as tools of trade, training, correct payment of salaries and benefits etc.

Programme Director; I would like to take this opportunity to express our sincere collective gratitude to outgone Director-General, Avril Williamson who has been with us for a period of three years. She led us through a difficult period including navigating challenges imposed on us by Covid19. I will also like to thank outgone MISA CEO Mr Vimba who led our agency well during his tenure until his contract came to an end. We thank Mr Pieter Pretorius for his contribution to DDG Cooperate Services. On behalf of the department, we wish them well in their future endeavours.

I now invite Deputy Minister Parks Tau, Deputy Minister Ncamashe, DG Tshangane, DG Diphofa and Acting CEO Pati to join me in front as I introduce to you the new leadership of the department.

I Thank you; Kea Leboga; Ngiyabonga!!!!