* This speech was originally published by the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation
Keynote address by the Honourable Jeff Radebe, MP, Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation; at the launch of the Sustainable Knowledge Development Hub as part of the Fourth International Conference on Responsible Leadership; at the Gordon Institute of Business Science, Ilovo, Johannesburg
I feel immensely honoured to address this prestigious gathering at the invitation of the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership. The Fourth International Conference on Responsible Leadership will go a long way in elucidating on the dynamics of leadership and guiding our operations in a variety of fields to cultivate responsible and ethical leadership.
It is fitting that this historic occasion is hosted by the Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership. The Albert Luthuli Centre for Responsible Leadership is aptly named after a distinguished South African leader whose vision was instrumental in bringing us the freedom and democracy that we enjoy in our country today.
Chief Albert Luthuli remains one of the most dynamic leaders ever known in the history of South Africa. He encompasses many of the topics under discussion today, including Ethical and Spiritual leadership, Responsible Leadership in a Complex World, Social Change, and others.
Chief Luthuli was testifying in the Treason Trial on 21 March 1960, when Sixty Nine (69) peaceful protestors were brutally gunned down by the apartheid security forces in Sharpeville. Following the Sharpeville Massacre, Chief Luthuli publicly burned his pass as part of the Defiance Campaign.
In the democratic South Africa, the 21st of March is officially recognised as Human Rights Day, in commemoration of the martyrs who sacrificed their lives so that we can enjoy the fruits of freedom that we are reaping today. This year’s Human Rights month is organised under the theme, “The Year of O.R. Tambo: Unity in Action in Advancing Human Rights,” in honour of yet another distinguished leader of our people. Oliver Reginald Tambo would have turned 100 years this year, and in honour of his leadership legacy, President Zuma declared this year to the memory of this colossus of the liberation movement.
Tambo succeeded Chief Luthuli as the President of the ANC after his passing in July 1967. While this year marks what would have been Tambo’s centenary, it also marks fifty years since Luthuli’s passing and 50 years since Tambo took over the reins of leadership in the ANC. For those of us who had the privilege of working with this towering leader, we remember Tambo as a man of principle and a leader of unquestionable integrity.
He remains the longest serving President of the ANC, having been at the helm of the organisation from 1967 until 1991. He was able to give instructions to structures inside the country while he was in exile. The late President Mandela once shared what I consider as one of the most profound allegories of leadership. He narrated the story of a shepherd “who stays behind the flock letting the most nimble go on ahead whereupon the others follow, not realising that all along they are being directed from behind.” Luthuli and Tambo were such leaders.
At this stage it should be easy to decipher that I am using two distinguished figures as crucibles for Responsible Leadership. Apart from the fact that Luthuli and Tambo succeeded each other as ANC Presidents, and the fact that they both proved to be astute leaders, they were also teachers and were very passionate about education.
Education is the single most important element that can take South Africa forward. It underpins development in all sectors of society. It is through education that the poor can transform into becoming significant players in the country’s economy. Quality education will produce skilled professionals, innovators and contributors to economic development
Over the past two years we witnessed the upsurge of student protests in connection with the exorbitant university fees. The #feesmustfall protests is a matter that government takes very seriously and we sincerely believe that money should not be an obstacle to attaining an education. Education is not for sale!
In this Human Rights Month, we should all remind ourselves that education is a right enshrined in the constitution of our democratic society. It remains an apex priority in the hierarchy of government programmes. Since the dawn of freedom and democracy in 1994, government prioritised education as a means to transform the lives of young South Africans for a brighter and more prosperous future.
However, we are confronted by the grim reality that many of our higher education institutions, especially the universities, are unaffordable for many students from financially disadvantaged backgrounds and middle income families. These unfortunate circumstances have led to many young South Africans not being able to access tertiary education in order to obtain qualifications that would give them the key to a world of endless possibilities.
We must always remember that in many impoverished communities, when one young person gets a breakthrough in the job market, they break the vicious cycle that has kept their families in the dungeons of poverty for generations. A single person’s breakthrough is a relief to the entire family. When we change the living conditions of one person, one family at a time, we are changing the living conditions of communities.
We need to find new solutions to these intractable problems in our society. These are issues that demand the involvement of all stakeholders in society. One of the necessary interventions from the academic community in particular, is to generate new perspectives on leadership theory and practice and encourage conference proposals that focus in these directions.
Given the complexity of the problems that confront higher education, President Jacob Zuma demonstrated decisive leadership and established an Inter-Ministerial Task Team on Higher Education. The purpose of the Task Team is to find ways of expediting the development of an efficient and sustainable model to address the funding challenge of South Africa’s students in universities and TVET colleges.
I have been entrusted with the daunting task of leading this Task Team and, as task team members, this is a responsibility that we do not take lightly. We have so far consulted a variety of stakeholders and as an interim solution, we made firm commitments and concrete recommendations, some of which are already in the process of implementation.
As government we are unequivocal in our commitment to providing financial assistance to the financially needy and the missing-middle. Government has allocated a total amount of R77.5 billion to Post-school Education and Training this year. Amidst the education crisis last year, allocation to the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) was increased exponentially as it now stands at a staggering R14, 582 billion.
These are some of the interim measures that we have put in place, but we are continuing with discussions in our quest to find sustainable solutions. One of the ongoing discussions in the Task Team is the possible conversion of the NSFAS from a partial loan to a full student grant for disenfranchised students.
I am glad that education processes are proceeding while we continue with our quest for permanent solutions. Our focus must be to safeguard the right to education and encourage academic excellence amongst our students. This is the true meaning of responsible leadership.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Let me briefly talk about the new trends that are developing in public leadership in general.
Firstly, there is a growing sense of the central role of Planning across government. The advent of mixed economies across the world has opened a new area of Planning, which had been castigated as a character of the former Eastern bloc countries. With China continuing to rise on the back of a carefully planned economy, which prays to no particular –ISMs, careful planning has been frontloaded as a necessity for any public sector leader.
Secondly, and as a consequence of the first, Planning without the performance being measured, monitored and evaluated is an exercise in futility. In the recent months, my Department has shared its own experiences and challenges in these areas with delegations from Namibia and Uganda, just two of our continental counterparts who realize the importance of this function of monitoring.
Thirdly, there are financial constraints across the world which force leadership to cut down their costs and to do more with less. Within Government, we are getting used to the concept of Haircuts. Apart from a revolution whose time has come, what Klaus Schwab of the World Economic Forum calls for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, technology is seen as a welcome replacement for these “haircuts”.
Lastly, the boundaries between public, private and non-government sectors are getting softer. The symbiosis is occasioned by the growing common challenges that face all of them at the same time. For example, although climate change issues are a subject of state-to-state engagements, climate changes are a challenge that cuts across all people, including non-state actors. The current leadership in these three sectors needs to begin to engage about how they will “share” leadership in the future.
This presents us with a chance to create the new leadership that will not categorize itself as private and public. Indeed as we speak, a new era of philanthropy has led to business leaders sponsoring and promoting those activities which in the past were the responsibilities of the state. Governments are gradually working hand in hand with civil society to achieve what is best for their populations. We are presented with a fresh opportunity to give oxygen to the concept of responsible leadership towards a more collective leadership. In the near future, we hope that the Centre will continue to erode these divides, which more often than not, arise when there is a blame game to be played.
In Mid-January this year, I was part of the South African delegation that attended the World Economic Forum in Davos. The theme of the Forum was Responsive Leadership. It think because the two terms — responsive and responsible leadership may have fallen from the same word root, it is best to relate how responsive leadership played itself in Davos.
Without the presence of the United States and the United Kingdom, both of whom were going through their internal challenges of Brexit and the post-elections reorganisation challenges respectively, it was left to President Xi Jinping of China to grace the 2017 WEF with a presence of an international stature.
The Chinese President’s visit to Davos for the first time, might have been occasioned by other reasons I am not privy to. However, the absence of the other leaders proved his “responsiveness” to a world that needed leadership. His presence, and his well-constructed address on economic globalization, proved that China was ready to take the mantle of leadership just as the others were stumbling or facing temporary challenges.
The greatest of leaders are the ones who are responsive and able to step-up and give direction at the most critical times. Leadership must be responsive to the current crises and be futuristic in its orientation. The decisions that we take today in resolving our current problems, must impact positively and add meaningful value in the future of our country.
The future growth and development strategies of this country clearly articulated in the National Development Plan (NDP). This blueprint is the overarching plan of the country as we journey towards the year 2030. The NDP identifies education as one of the key elements in creating a better and more prosperous South Africa. Improving education, training and innovation are cited as some of the key areas in creating a better and more prosperous South Africa by 2030.
The NDP envisages a South Africa where everyone has access to education of the highest quality, leading to significantly improved outcomes. Lifelong learning, continuous professional development and knowledge production alongside innovation are central to building the capabilities of individuals and society as a whole. Education and skills enhancement are paramount in any society seeking meaningful growth and development.
With the NDP, our duty is to establish a solid foundation as a launch pad for our future leaders to take this country forward. Those leaders are young people who are students at various tertiary institutions today. As a student, you must know that you are being moulded to assume a leadership role in society. This can be at any level and in any field, but the most important thing is that you must dream big and work towards making those dreams a reality. It begins in the classroom.
Our responsibility as leaders in government, administrators, educators, parents and other key stakeholders is to make sure that we support students and remove all the barriers to education. At the core of our interventions must be the investment towards developing the next generation young leaders. We must inculcate strong leadership values and a sense of responsibility among these future leaders of our society.
This also calls for strong synergies between institutions of higher learning, government and the private sector. Gone are the days of having universities as white elephants and government offices as ivory towers. The Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub that we have the pleasure of launching today is the result of a close collaboration between the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and the University of Pretoria.
The Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub is an online African initiative that focuses on collecting and disseminating relevant research on the implementation of Agenda 2063 and the SDGs in South Africa. I am told that this is the only Hub of its kind on the African continent and it provides access to the most recent and relevant South African research as an existing knowledge base to domesticate the SDGs.
The launch of the South African Sustainable Development Knowledge Hub is a significant milestone in our journey towards Agenda 2063, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as well as in our pursuit of Vision 2030. It is imperative that we align the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to national developmental priorities as clearly articulated in the NDP. The hub provides an existing evidence base from which to assess progress and identify knowledge gaps.
The dynamics of migration and refugee trends globally provide a glaring example of societal challenges to which government leadership, scholars, technocrats and practitioners in the field should be turning their attention.
Three days ago, South Africa’s and Nigeria’s Ministers responsible for international relations met to discuss the violent attacks against foreign nationals in South Africa and the vandalization of shops linked to South African businesses in Nigeria. The narrative that is developing in both countries is that the violence is not government policy. Both countries agree that if their nationals are involved in criminal activities, the law in their respective countries must take its course.
It was agreed that there are many foreign nationals who contribute positively to the economy of South Africa and whose commitment to abide with the law is overshadowed by a few who are involved in criminal activities. Leadership from both sides should be commended for swiftly getting into grips with a situation that might have gone out of control.
In the international arena, a total of 193 states adopted the new Sustainable Agenda 2030 in September 2015, at the United Nations in New York. This programme came into force from the 1st of January 2017. In line with Government’s foreign policy outlook of creating a better Africa and a better world, we have engaged with international organisations in the development of a set of indicators to achieve equality for all global citizens.
Our diplomats and representatives to international institutions have always been hard at work to draft global policies that would shape the world. We are therefore proud that we have contributed to the genesis of the Sustainable Development Goals and we are committed to the achievements of all the 17 Goals to the extent that our resources allow us. The lesson that comes out of this is that leadership should have a global focus.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I must commend the University of Pretoria, the Gordon Institute of Business Science and other partners for taking the initiative to establish the centre for responsible leadership and organising this conference today. It is pleasing to note that the University recognises the importance of responsible leadership in society.
As I conclude, I would like to pose a challenge to you, Prof de Jongh, and other academics in the room, to interrogate the lived experiences of Luthuli and Tambo in any studies that relate to leadership and responsibility. I am sure that a close interrogation of these eminent leaders will give future generations more insights about responsible leadership.
I wish the Centre well in its efforts to inculcate responsible leadership across all sectors, so that one day when we face challenges, none of our people will say why is government silent, but they will say why leadership in its collective, was across all sectors, silent. Responsible leaders do not get satisfaction from the failures of other leaders, but lend them a hand to strengthen their leadership.
May you continue to nurture the future leaders of our country. South Africa deserves the best. And the best is among the current generation of students.