An advocate of public sector reform, Dr Tinashe Mushayanyama, Director of Policy Planning and Research at the City of Johannesburg, firmly believes the public sector, as a profession, needs to be professionalised. “We always think of the public sector as a safe haven for employment and many don’t bother about delivering on its objects. Thus, the culture needs to change,” he stresses. Another area that he strongly believes requires special attention, concerns policy research and implementation. “Our public sector is marred by policies that are not cohesive and responsive in solving community problems on the ground.” Going forward, Dr Mushayanyama plans to spend much time on these two areas... and hopefully eventually venture into the academic world. Read more about his career, his advice to current PhD students and sources of inspiration.
Q: Briefly summarise your career since graduating from UP, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: As Director of Policy Planning and Research at the City of Johannesburg, my career currently revolves around four strategic areas: Firstly, I facilitate strategic planning within the City to ensure that appropriate targeted anti-poverty and inequality strategies, policies, business plans and procedures are developed, approved, communicated to the relevant stakeholders and implemented so that the strategic imperatives of the City are met.
Secondly, I spend time assessing the City’s strategic directives, conceptualise and develop responses to guide research and strategic amendments so that appropriate, accurate and strategic context is provided in which strategic planning can take place.
Thirdly, I monitor and evaluate the execution and implementation of development strategies, business plans and policies across the City to ensure alignment to, and delivery of, the City’s strategic objectives.
Fourthly, I’m responsible for identifying, connecting, forming relationships, scoping partnerships and building the City’s strategic partner network, which includes the private sector, academia, NGOs and other spheres of government.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: My studies were tremendously helpful. Being a scholar in the public sector is probably the direction that should be encouraged. My studies have empowered me to be able to conduct cutting-edge public sector policy research, and these studies have built in me the ability to search and integrate knowledge.
Out of the well-known four scholarships propounded by Boyer, the most under applied has been the scholarship of application. Therefore, being in the public sector and being at the coalface of service delivery, my studies have provided me with the opportunity to apply knowledge in solving real problems of communities. Today, I’m emboldened more than ever to close the gaps between academic theory and application.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: For those who are pursuing their PhDs, my advice is twofold:
Firstly, choose an interesting and stimulating topic. While it is still possible to make a contribution with an over-researched and boring topic, my advice is that PhD students must be bold enough to venture into almost novel areas. Thus the title itself must be eye catching, enticing readers to want to read more.
Secondly, PhD students must commit to learning. What I mean here is that they must avoid outsourcing important parts of their research. I have encountered many students who tend to outsource parts of their work, particularly the methodology and data analysis chapters of their research. In this way, they lose out on learning the fine art of being a true academic. I did everything myself; applying both quantitative and qualitative methodologies to explore and answer my research questions. If outsourcing is the only option, students must be cautious of their responsibility to ultimately learn in that process.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful business/company/consultancy/organisation?
A: A successful organisation is reflected by a motivated and innovative workforce. Therefore, for an organisation to be successful, it must invest in the education of its workforce.
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc) do you enjoy reading?
A: I enjoy reading a variety of news. Every day when I wake up, I go through all the Google news articles that pop on my Google app. As you may well know, Google app is good at customising the requirements of the reader, so my pop-up articles relate to politics, economics and I’m also a fanatic of motoring news. Google app also allows me to read news from a variety of sources: locally, regionally and internationally.
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: I’m inspired by success. Every time I reflect on my week, month or any other regular interval, I do a self-audit by asking “what have I achieved or what is it that I have done to change the lives of people”.
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person - in any domain - who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: I will not look far. We have incredible local and inspiring people around us. My first choice is former president Thabo Mbeki. He is an intellectual with the ability to use his intellect to stimulate useful transformation debates. He maintains his position and has often used his intellect to answer critical questions about the value of being an African, how we as Africans ought to conduct ourselves in solving our problems. His solutions to problems are more inward. If I were to meet him, the first discussion will be on key antecedents required for public sector reform. How do we make it transparent, efficient and an environment for motivated and innovative cadres?
Q: Going forward, what are your professional/business/personal goals?
A: I’m an advocate of public sector reform. The public sector, as a profession, needs to be professionalised. We always think of the public sector as a safe haven for employment and many don’t bother about delivering on its objects. Thus, the culture needs to change.
Another area that I strongly believe requires special attention is around policy research and implementation. Our public sector is marred by policies that are not cohesive and responsive in solving community problems on the ground. I will be spending much time on these two areas and hopefully eventually venture into the academic world.
Q: Lastly, COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. In your opinion, to what extent is the pandemic likely to impact globalisation/international trade?
A: For me the pandemic brought about a significant new normal. The fact that people were forced to work from home and that many companies successfully executed their mandates, implies that going forward borders will be meaningless in defining where people ought to be employed. Where work permits used to be a prerequisite, going forward it will be possible to be employed without one as one could simply work from their home country while interacting through technology. In terms of international trade, I see the reverse role. Africa has shown a significant level of resilience from the pandemic, which will position it as a safe haven for planning long-term human resources. I see Africa being considered a top priority with the possibility of limited disruptions on investments. In that regard, COVID-19 may as well have come in handy for us here in Africa.