Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Municipal bosses learn to be leaders at summer school

- Carol Campbell -

South Africa’s poor have to be favoured by local government when allocating resources and this has to be done responsibly and realistically. This was the message to emerge from the inter-provincial Governance Summer School held in Somerset West at the end of March.

Municipal managers and mayors from the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape spent a week undergoing intensive leadership training in an all out effort by the provincial leadership to upgrade skills at local government level. Prince Albert was not represented at the GSS.

Brian O’Connell, rector of the University of the Western Cape, told the 250 delegates that the time had come for South Africa’s leaders to be honest with the people they served by explaining the limitations of their budgets and the time it took to create infrastructure where there was none.

“What our government should have explained to the people was exactly what resources were available and how they would be distributed,” he said. Instead the majority of people expected much more than they were given and could not understand why their aspirations were left unmet.
O’Connell said it was fear of political unpopularity, especially in the Western Cape, that encouraged leaders to avoid the truth.

Harry Dugmore, from the South African Presidency’s Policy Co-ordination and Advisory Services, explained to the delegates that 45% of the country’s population still lived in “extreme poverty” surviving on less that R3000/year.

He placed the country in the international context explaining how the growth of China and India would impact on the economy in future years.
He also talked about the price of oil and explained why the country was experiencing a power crisis (apparently nobody took the strategic planners seriously!).

Iqbal Surve, CEO and Chairman of the Sekunjalo Investment Group, spoke on ethics and the importance of staying close to one’s “moral core” in every decision. “It’s not a sin to make money but it is important to do it in an honourable way,” he said.

On the final night of the GSS, Western Cape premier, Ebrahim Rasool, was interviewed on stage by E-TV news reporter Lukhanyo Calato.

His talk drove home the message that it was “an enormous honour” to be a leader in South Africa and that it was a role that should be conducted with discretion and grace.

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