It is fair to say that nobody can teach esteemed alumnus, Dr Innocent Sirovha, anything about perseverance. Having had to repeat grade 12 no fewer than three times, he went on to reach the pinnacle of academic success when he obtained his PhD in 2018 at the Faculty’s School of Public Management and Administration, proving that he has the “power to overcome anything”. Appointed as Municipal Manager and CEO of the Agricultural Sector Education and Training Authority (AgriSETA) in December 2020, his priority is to lead the organisation to excellence and a clean audit, something it is has never achieved before, and helping small scale farmers to become commercial farmers.
Q: Briefly summarise your studies and your professional career, with special mention of specific highlights/milestones.
A: I repeated Grade 12 three times – this has given me more power to overcome any challenge in my life.
By others I am considered a seasoned strategic leader with special expertise and experience in Strategic Planning and Development, Rural Development, Policy Development and Analysis, Organisational Restructuring and Transformation, Performance Management Systems, Employee Relations and Project Management, all undertaken in leadership positions both in the Public and Private sectors.
My experience encompasses many achievements in Public Administration, and I am known for driving governance excellence in this sector. I have a PhD in Public Administration, a National Certificate in Municipal Financial Management, Master’s in Public Administration, along with other executive leadership and education qualifications.
Q: To what extent did your studies at UP benefit you in your career and contribute to your success?
A: Education is the cornerstone of growth and success – we should therefore appreciate each and every opportunity for tertiary studies. Not everyone is fortunate enough to be exposed to a university life, but I had the good fortune to continue with tertiary studies. Had I not completed my Master’s in Public Administration, I would not have been appointed as Municipal Manager and CEO because it was a minimum requirement at AgriSETA.
Q: Can you single out a special mentor/trusted advisor who played an indispensable role in your life/studies/career?
A: Emeritus Professor Chris Thornhill remains an inspiration in my life. Professor David Fourie has equally contributed positively to my life. I shall be forever grateful.
Q: Given your academic experience at UP, what advice can you pass on to current students?
A: It’s simple – never give up, no matter what your challenges are, they always pass and each day brings with it a new promise and new hope. It does not matter how slowly you walk in life, as long as you don’t stop walking.
Q: What really inspires and motivates you personally?
A: People, the power of people and the humanity of all people – it all comes a full circle, all the time. The commitment of ordinary people in challenging or overcoming their daily challenges, is most inspiring.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful business/company/consultancy/organisation?
A: Many leaders have a recipe of sorts, but there is no one ‘fit-for-all’ solution. Each business has its focus areas and should be viewed in the context of their challenges. Any person who can do any work without payment is bound to be successful. Simply said: love what you do.
Q: Which business/trade-related publications (magazines/newspapers/blogs, etc.) do you enjoy reading?
A: All business magazines and articles, inspirational-type books and success stories – and, of course, industry-related articles. I also read a lot of biographies – every person’s story inspires me differently.
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: My late mother, Munzhedzi Sirovha, and Kaiser Motaung. I would like to spend time with Kaizer Motaung and, among other things, discuss how he established his business.
Q: Going forward, what are your professional/business/personal goals?
A: In the context of being AgriSETA’s newly appointed CEO, at the very top of my list of priorities for the organisation is to achieve a clean audit, something it has not achieved before. My vision is to drive the organisation to excellence, to gain more income, with which to do more – which will benefit the sector and the country as a whole. Helping small-scale farmers to become big farmers. Reducing the rate of unemployment in South Africa through farming. Making agriculture sexy to attract young people.
Q: In 2020, COVID-19 turned the world upside down...and it continues to do so. What is the biggest ‘lesson’ you’ve learnt from this pandemic and to what extent did it change your mindset?
A: We are not yet 4IR savvy across all environments and the gap between rich and poor remains wide, including access to techonology – or a lack thereof. However, for business and other sectors of the South African society, we quickly adjusted to what has become the new normal, which is to embrace technology and working remotely – thus far, we have proven ourselves to be the tenatious beings that we have come to be known the world over.
Q: What are your hopes and aspirations for Africa and its people for the rest of this decade...and beyond?
A: As Africans, we need not stand back for any Western society. We have the land, the skills and the will. Obviously, the diaspora is a concern and we appreciate all the help we can get. At AgriSETA the focus is on education in agriculture – education and food security are of the utmost importance – not just because we are a Sector Education Training Authority (SETA) that drives education in the agricultural sector, but because these two centres remain the most imporant aspects of life and livelihood.