Pro­files in lead­er­ship

Public Sector Manager - - Contents -

CEO of the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Agency, Thamo Mzobe, is pas­sion­ate about fight­ing poverty

As South African com­mu­ni­ties bat­tle against the bur­den of poverty, the Na­tional Devel­op­ment Agency (NDA) has stepped into their cor­ner, ready to of­fer sup­port, skills and fund­ing where it is needed. With the coun­try mark­ing So­cial Devel­op­ment Month in October, PSM spoke to Thamo Mzobe, CEO of the NDA, to find out more about how the agency is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence in the lives of South Africans.

The NDA is an agency that falls un­der the Depart­ment of So­cial Devel­op­ment. It is tasked with the re­spon­si­bil­ity of con­tribut­ing to­wards the erad­i­ca­tion of poverty and its causes in South Africa.

It grants funds to civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions for the pur­pose of im­ple­ment­ing devel­op­ment projects of poor com­mu­ni­ties and strength­en­ing the in­sti­tu­tional ca­pac­ity of other civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions that pro­vide ser­vices to poor com­mu­ni­ties, among oth­ers.

Ac­cord­ing to Mzobe, the or­gan­i­sa­tion's role is that of pro­vid­ing a con­duit for grants, keep­ing a data­base for civil so­ci­ety, strength­en­ing ca­pac­ity-build­ing for civil so­ci­ety, and en­sur­ing there is part­ner­ship and stake­holder en­gage­ment for re­source mo­bil­i­sa­tion.

Mzobe and her team are work­ing on a ro­bust plan that calls on all govern­ment de­part­ments to work to­gether with the NDA on pro­grammes that are meant to bet­ter the lives of South Africans and erad­i­cate poverty.

Rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion

When Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma spoke about rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion dur­ing his State of the Na­tion Ad­dress, the NDA saw an op­por­tu­nity for small, mi­cro and medium-sized en­ter­prises (SMMEs) to play a part in the econ­omy.

For Mzobe, the Pres­i­dent's speech in­spired her to em­brace this as a chal­lenge for the NDA to take on.

She re­alised that the NDA could put the Pres­i­dent's words into ac­tion by as­sist­ing SMMEs and co­op­er­a­tives.

Apart from sup­port­ing non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tions, the NDA also awards grants to co­op­er­a­tives to con­trib­ute to­wards al­le­vi­at­ing and erad­i­cat­ing poverty in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Mzobe adds that work­ing closely with the Depart­ment of So­cial Devel­op­ment she was able to fa­cil­i­tate rad­i­cal eco­nomic em­pow­er­ment by en­sur­ing that co­op­er­a­tives man­u­fac­ture school uni­forms that the South African So­cial Se­cu­rity Agency (Sassa) dis­trib­utes.

“In 2015 we iden­ti­fied about 1 007 co­op­er­a­tives. We pro­filed them in terms of their gov­er­nance, ca­pac­ity and in­ter­est. We wanted to es­tab­lish a mar­ket which is con­trolled by So­cial Devel­op­ment, through Sassa, for school uni­forms.

“Out of this fig­ure over 800 co­op­er­a­tives were able to sup­ply schools with uni­forms which were as­sured by South African Bureau of Stan­dards.This means that the Depart­ment of So­cial Devel­op­ment spent over R100 mil­lion, which was paid to small busi­nesses for sup­ply­ing uni­forms,” Mzobe ex­plains.

The value has since ac­cu­mu­lated. In 2017, over

R206 mil­lion of the So­cial Devel­op­ment bud­get has ben­e­fited about 1 800 co­op­er­a­tives in­volved in pro­duc­ing school uni­forms, and food pro­duc­tion.

One full school uni­form com­prises 18 items, which cost about R2 000 per child, with some co­op­er­a­tives even man­u­fac­tur­ing shoes.

Mzobe says co­op­er­a­tives are very close to her heart be­cause some of those that the NDA has as­sisted are now mini fac­to­ries.

“My favourite part of the co­op­er­a­tive is their abil­ity to strike busi­ness deals with schools in their ar­eas.They no longer wait for or­ders from Sassa.

“When it comes to en­trepreneur­ship, we as a coun­try have a lot of po­ten­tial.We sup­port co­op­er­a­tives so it's not only one per­son who ben­e­fits … there are di­rect and in­di­rect ben­e­fi­ci­a­tions for the com­mu­nity.”

The NDA pro­vides an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for co­op­er­a­tives to do busi­ness.

“This means if peo­ple come to­gether and re­quest as­sis­tance to start a sewing com­pany we buy them the ma­chines and then pro­vide them with a mar­ket to sell their prod­ucts to. We un­lock po­ten­tial in co­op­er­a­tives.”

In the past fi­nan­cial year, the NDA as­sisted about 70 co­op­er­a­tives in this way.

ECD cen­tres a pil­lar for ed­u­ca­tion

An­other crit­i­cal el­e­ment of the NDA's work is Early Child­hood Devel­op­ment (ECD) cen­tres, which are pil­lars of ed­u­ca­tion and im­por­tant in un­lock­ing a child's po­ten­tial.

“Un­der­stand­ing the in­vest­ment in a child and un­lock­ing the po­ten­tial at a very early stage is very im­por­tant.”

Mzobe says the NDA looks at ECD cen­tres

holis­ti­cally in terms of a child's men­tal and phys­i­cal devel­op­ment. “This is an as­set and if well nur­tured at an early stage will yield great po­ten­tial for our coun­try,” she says.

Mzobe adds that dur­ing the first 1 000 days of a child's life their minds can quickly ab­sorb im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion.

Get­ting ac­cess to qual­ity ed­u­ca­tion at this stage is es­sen­tial. ECD pro­grammes also ad­vo­cate that chil­dren who are ex­posed to the pro­grammes must have ac­cess to qual­ity food and to an en­vi­ron­ment that al­lows the growth of po­ten­tial.

Mzobe says that if South Africa gets the ECD pro­gramme right, the coun­try will not ex­pe­ri­ence en­tre­pre­neur­ial chal­lenges nor strug­gle to pro­duce sci­en­tists be­cause the child's po­ten­tial and re­silience is built at this level.

She adds that for chil­dren to flour­ish aca­dem­i­cally, nu­tri­tion and a bal­anced diet are also im­por­tant.

One ECD cen­tre, one food gar­den

The NDA pro­motes the con­cept of “One ECD cen­tre, one food gar­den”.

Food gar­dens make it pos­si­ble to pro­vide fresh veg­eta­bles to ECD fa­cil­i­ties, home-based cen­tres, ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and school feed­ing schemes.

The NDA also pro­vides skills devel­op­ment and train­ing re­lated to the ben­e­fits of good nu­tri­tion.

ECD cen­tres have been recog­nised as one of the most pow­er­ful tools in break­ing the cy­cle of poverty in South Africa.

Lack of op­por­tu­ni­ties and in­ter­ven­tions, or poor-qual­ity in­ter­ven­tions dur­ing early child­hood, can sig­nif­i­cantly dis­ad­van­tage young chil­dren and di­min­ish their po­ten­tial for suc­cess.

The NDA fo­cuses mostly on ECD cen­tres sit­u­ated in ru­ral ar­eas, in­for­mal set­tle­ments and farm ar­eas, where the lev­els of poverty are very high and par­ents have no means or ac­cess to struc­tured ECDbased pro­grammes.

Mzobe adds that her or­gan­i­sa­tion fo­cuses on build­ing on the man­age­ment of an ECD cen­tre, par­tic­u­larly in the ar­eas of gov­er­nance, fi­nan­cial man­age­ment, fundrais­ing, hu­man re­source man­age­ment, re­port-writ­ing and how to reg­is­ter with the provin­cial de­part­ments of So­cial Devel­op­ment.

“This as­sists cen­tres to com­ply with the norms and stan­dards of the Depart­ment of So­cial Devel­op­ment.”

Up­grad­ing the in­fra­struc­ture of ECD cen­tres is also an im­por­tant el­e­ment in en­sur­ing in­fras­truc­tural norms and stan­dards, which cre­ates an en­vi­ron­ment that is con­ducive to learn­ing and safe.

Train­ing of ECD staff

Mzobe says that ECD prin­ci­pals, su­per­vi­sors, prac­ti­tion­ers, cooks and gov­ern­ing body mem­bers are ap­pro­pri­ately trained and skilled to ben­e­fit the cen­tres' pro­grammes for young chil­dren.

She adds that ECD ed­u­ca­tors are also guided by a cur­ricu­lum with teach­ing stan­dards that must be at­tained.

“Their cur­ricu­lum cov­ers most of Grade R ... ECD cen­tres are a pub­lic good and ev­ery child needs to have eq­ui­table ac­cess to ECD. It's sup­posed to be a stan­dard prac­tice across the board,” says Mzobe.

Be the change you want to see

October is So­cial Devel­op­ment Month but Mzobe be­lieves: “We should live So­cial Devel­op­ment Month ev­ery day be­cause this is en­shrined in our Na­tional Devel­op­ment Plan (NDP). When the NDP says ac­tive cit­i­zenry it's clearly in­di­cat­ing the im­por­tance of help­ing each other and starting some­thing be­cause it's good for a fel­low South African.

“Let's be aware of the re­sources that we have in our coun­try. Let's use them to care, sup­port and nur­ture each other”, she adds.

Touch­ing the lives of South Africans

Mzobe says she is proud of the work she does be­cause her or­gan­i­sa­tion is touch­ing peo­ple's lives and chang­ing them for the bet­ter.

She says she loves her job since it keeps her grounded and in touch with or­di­nary cit­i­zens of South Africa.

Mov­ing for­ward, Mzobe's vi­sion for the NDA in­cludes a South Africa that has one com­mu­nity prac­ti­tioner from the NDA in ev­ery ward.

“This should be a per­son who will be ded­i­cated to com­mu­nity devel­op­ment with erad­i­cat­ing poverty and fight­ing hunger at the top of their list,” she says.

Thamo Mzobe, CEO of the NDA.

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