Not only did his studies at UP provide him with a broad view on matters of governance and processes that are involved in the running of the state, it also exposed him to the intricacies of government by delving deeper into the evolution of public administration as a function, says alumnus Samkelo Janda who has made his mark as councillor and Executive Mayor in local and municipal administration. It therefore comes as no surprise that his goal is to pursue lecturing at academic institutions and impart knowledge to upcoming civil servants and in-service training to current civil servants in order to assist in building ethical, responsive and responsible civil servants. Read more about his studies, his remarkable career, and his hopes and aspirations for South Africa.
Q: Briefly summarise your studies and your professional career, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: My education journey began when I completed my matric at Mthawelanga Senior Secondary school in 1985. I then studied towards my secondary teacher’s diploma at Butterworth College of Education, which was accredited by the then University of Transkei and completed it in 1988.
I furthered my studies through correspondence together with other colleagues to equip myself with the required skills and knowledge. I registered for the Advanced Programme in Human Resources Management and Industrial Relations with Rhodes University.
It was in this period that I also seized an opportunity to broaden my career and scope on matters of governance and politics of local government through personal development. I registered for a diploma in Local Government with Oxbridge College, which I completed in 2004. I also enrolled for short courses such as Councillors’ Development Programmes, Project Management and Strategic Planning with a number of institutions such as the Border Technikon, the University of Fort Hare and the University of Stellenbosch.
In 2007, I successfully completed the Executive Leadership Municipal Development Programme, which was offered jointly by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA) and the School of Public Management and Administration at the University of Pretoria. In my eagerness to learn I applied for the Master’s Degree in Governance and Political Transformation at the University of the Free State with a first requirement to apply for an examination (exemption) and by completing a portfolio of evidence for the recognition of prior learning. The certificate of exemption was then granted by the Committee of University Principals. I completed my Master’s Degree and graduated in 2011.
This motivated me to explore further when another opportunity presented itself to register with the University of Pretoria in a programme that was coordinated by SALGA and sponsored by the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) for a Master’s Degree in Public Administration: Public Infrastructure Management. I completed it and graduated in 2015.
Municipalities are grappling with and are found wanting in matters of supply chain management. The National Treasury encouraged municipal officials, both elected and appointed, to undergo a course in Municipal Finance and Supply Chain Management. I also ventured into this space so that when I exercise oversight over administration, I am conversant with supply chain management issues. I completed the full course, having registered with the University of the Witwatersrand as certified by the Local Government Education and Training Authority (LGSETA) in 2016.
I am a teacher by profession and taught at junior and senior secondary classes, teaching history and geography. During my teaching career from 1989 until January 1997, I served at various levels from being an assistant teacher, deputy principal and principal. I was also appointed Deputy Education Specialist: Youth Affairs in 1997 in the erstwhile Department of Education, Sport, Arts and Culture, with special focus on school youth in the Eastern Cape Province.
In December 2000, I moved from the education sector to join local government as a public representative and served as a councillor in the Amatole District Municipality (ADM) for 15 years. I served in various capacities, being the Municipal Speaker for two terms and the Portfolio Head for Local Economic Development. This means that I served both as the head of the Legislature as well as at the executive level in this municipality.
A special highlight during these three consecutive terms was when I was elected as the first Municipal Speaker of that Council and served in this capacity from December 2000 until 2006. As the Office of the Speaker was introduced for the first time in the history of local government in South Africa, there was not much provision in the legislation that could serve as a guide to the first cohorts of speakers, therefore we had to initiate processes and procedures that were later used in the sector and institutionalised in municipalities.
I was also appointed by the MEC for the Department of Sport, Recreation, Arts and Culture in the province to serve as chairperson of the Eastern Cape Provincial Geographic Names Committee, which is mandated by national legislation to facilitate the standardisation of the geographic place names. This emanates from the fact that place names in the countries that were colonised were either corrupted, obliterated or duplicated. Some of the names were not formally registered and linked up with the geographic information systems (GIS). This was one of the most significant milestones in my career. I became part of those who contributed to transformation of the geographic landscape in our country, which proved to be a tedious, complex and challenging process. The most gratifying moment was when the National Minister of Arts and Culture gazetted those standardised name such as Queenstown to Komani, Elliott to Khowa, Grahamstown to Makhanda, to mention but a few.
After the Local Government Elections in 2016, I was deployed to Mbhashe local municipality as a councillor and later elected Executive Mayor. The municipality was known for its instability, both at a political as well as at an administrative level. The Department of Cooperative Government and Traditional Affairs characterised it as one of the dysfunctional municipalities. However, since 2016 to date, the municipality has enjoyed stability at both levels.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: Studying at UP provided me with a broad view on matters of governance and processes that are involved in the running of the state. Studying at UP also exposed me more to the intricacies of government by delving deeper into the evolution of public administration as a function.
Among the interesting topics we dealt with was public entrepreneurship, which was important to know, especially when dealing with public infrastructure management. It also gave me a critical understanding of the distinctive roles played by the political office bearers against the roles played by the administration. This is important to know, especially in municipalities where the lines may be blurred owing to the conflation of both executive and legislative powers in council. This understanding helps one to circumvent interference by political office bearers in administration and to know when and how to intervene as a political office bearer.
The exposure to studying at UP has also contributed to the considerable amount of stability that is enjoyed in Mbhashe local municipality. The wealth of knowledge from the University helped me to lead the institution from the vantage point of engaging with management, council and various stakeholders in our municipality.
As evidence of this stability, the municipality has received unqualified audit reports with emphasis of matters from the office of the Auditor-General of South Africa and became the only municipality in the district to receive it. This has helped to bring back confidence in the institution by stakeholders.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: In terms of experience gained, the University allocated lecturers with much agility to us. They were always fully prepared, topics were well researched and they were always keen to guide us along. They were mentors in the true sense of the word. The learning environment was very encouraging, including access to the library for information gathering. The lecturers were considerate and accommodating, given the fact that we were working, yet firm in not breaking university rules.
My advice to current students is that they should never hesitate; instead, they should seize the opportunity of being part of this renowned institution with highly skilled and professional lecturers and widen their borders of knowledge as far as possible.
Q: Can you single out a special mentor/trusted advisor who played an indispensable role in your life/studies/career?
A: Professor Natasja Holtzhausen has made an immense contribution to the success of my studies. She believed in my potential and guided me throughout my journey as my supervisor. That is why out of a class of 25 students only two of us made it to the graduation. She didn't only end there; she motivated me to write and present papers during seminars and encouraged me to register for a PhD.
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: I'm always inspired to venture onto untraversed roads because it helps me to become innovative and creative. What motivates me is when I complete a task I assign myself.
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: Because of his diverse and acute knowledge of issues across many spectrums, I would dearly like to engage in conversation with Professor Somadoda Fikeni about the changing political landscape in South Africa and the emerging trends of collision governments in municipalities.
Q: Going forward, what are your professional/business/personal goals?
A: My goal is to pursue lecturing at academic institutions and impart knowledge to the upcoming civil servants and in-service training to current civil servants. The idea is to continue with the efforts to build ethical, responsive and responsible civil servants.
Q: In 2020, COVID-19 turned the world upside down...and continues to do so. What is the biggest ‘lesson’ you’ve learnt from this pandemic and to what extent did it change your mind-set?
A: The importance of social compact and how that contributed in flattening the curve, social relief to the distressed families and economic recovery measures to the distressed companies.
The ICT challenge during this pandemic has shown us that we are still very far from the Fourth Industrial Revolution, especially with the issues of connectivity in rural towns and rural areas. The pandemic also exposed the extent of endemic corruption in our country. Sadly, the moral fibre and ethical conduct of our people are dead.
Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for South Africa and its people for the rest of this decade...and beyond?
A: I expect is to see a South Africa that adheres to the principles of good governance. I sincerely hope that one day this country will be dominated at leadership level by ethical leadership with high moral values.