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DEPARTMENTAL STRATEGIC PLANNING SESSION ADDRESS BY SE HLOMUKA KZN MEC FOR COGTA

Programme Director;

Head of Department, Mr Tubane;

Members of the Executive Management Committee;

Senior Managers;

Ladies and gentlemen;

All protocol observed

I would like to welcome all managers to this virtual strategic planning session, the first of its kind in our history as a department. They say that when you change the form, you are on your way to changing the substance. In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, this holds very true. The form of this virtual session is determined by the novel coronavirus as much as the substance of the direction KZN Cogta will take in the immediate future to meet its constitutional mandate.

We are participating in this virtual Strategic Planning session to take stock of where we are as an organisation and to collectively decide the plan moving forward. In other words, we are here to conduct a detailed assessment of the readiness of Cogta to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

Background and context

The immediate challenge before us is the Covid-19 pandemic that continues to devastate our communities, our economy and, more pertinently for us at Cogta, our municipalities and traditional institutions. The pandemic has necessitated large-scale reprioritisation of state resources and this has resulted in significant reduction of our own budget for many of our service delivery-related activities that used to form part of our strategic planning in the past. As a result, we have already had to reformulate our Annual Performance Plan for 2020/2021 to reflect our new priorities and our new budgetary constraints.

The impact of these changes is truly far-reaching. We will be required to ensure that our municipalities continue to function despite their massive revenue shortfalls and we will need to continue to manage our infrastructure projects, particularly water-related projects, despite these budget cuts. We will be required to play a key role in restoring our municipalities and traditional institutions to their pre-pandemic levels of operation. We may also need to contend with possible delays in such important events as the 2021 local government elections.

Purpose of the session

The assessment we will conduct during this Strategic Planning session must therefore reflect these new realities. It must be comprehensive, honest and objective in order for us to be able to map the strategic way forward in the context of the new normal. What will be important in this assessment is for us to draw on best practices that we should replicate and worst practices that we should do our best avoid. For this Strategic Planning session to be a success, we therefore all need to ensure that we approach it with no pre-determined outcomes.

Our mandate here is to reflect on how our new priorities will find expression in our Strategic Plan as well as our Implementation Plan thereof. All our programmes, policies and resources across all business units will have to be directed in pursuit of our immediate, medium-term and long-term tasks. As we continue to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus and look beyond towards a post-Covid-19 local government landscape, we must not lose sight of our long-term vision to provide comprehensive support to all local governance institutions, such as municipalities and traditional leadership institutions, in order to make them sustainable.

This is a fundamental task for the department. The expectation, therefore, is that creating stable and sustainable local governance institutions will constitute the core of our strategy and this will be high up on the list of priorities of the department. If we fail to do so, then we would have failed the people of KZN in particular and South Africa in general. So, today we begin to reimagine our destiny for the foreseeable future and plan the journey conscious of our strengths and weaknesses. We need to look at possible opportunities and threats that lie ahead. As we do so, we need to look at how we can circumvent some of those threats and leverage the opportunities that are there.

A new future for Cogta

We are urged to imagine a new future for Cogta and the people of our province in a post-Civid-19 era: a new future where those we serve are our number one clients and to them Cogta is the number one go-to department when faced with challenges. Let us use this opportunity to refashion Cogta as a new vehicle that will deliver innovative solutions in resolving service delivery and local governance challenges and drive the agenda to grow South Africa together. I am confident that this new Cogta is the best vehicle for driving our municipalities and traditional institutions out of the current Covid-19 devastation towards a full recovery and a sustainable future beyond.

We must at this Strategic Planning session emerge with concrete strategies for our municipal support plans to ensure that we reach our intended destination of making the system of local government work better for our people. In a lot of what has unravelled in the local government space we, as Cogta, have been complicit through our action or inaction. Today we must make a clean break with the past. As a department, we cannot be aloof but we have to be on the ground in supporting the institutions we are constitutionally mandated to support and ensure that they perform.

Our support plans must respond to these challenges and we must be able to play our role and be frank if there are any obstacles. I think we are all observing the fact that we have entered a new era in consequence management in government: the public are not sparing us of their wrath as the people they have tasked with improving their lives. We want to be unequivocal in that we will also exercise consequence management against those not pulling their weight. This is a clarion call for all of us to do our work that we are paid to do and also to contribute to building our country.

On the financial side, the province is impacted by the constrained global economic environment due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the immediate implications are budget cuts and reprioritisation. This means that we have to continue doing our work effectively with fewer resources and managing them more effectively to get value for money. Our task is to ensure that people who contribute their taxes, rates and service charges get a return on their investments through high-quality public services they receive from their local government institutions. We have challenges related to Eskom debt, revenue collection, dysfunctional water schemes, poor operations and maintenance of municipal infrastructure. All of these need to be addressed here today.

New guiding principles for Cogta

As you contemplate our department’’s strategy during this virtual Strategic Planning session, I urge you to base all your inputs around the following pillars: 

•• Improvement in audit status of the department and a strategy for differentiated support to municipalities which is based on the currently available performance information

•• Alignment between available resources and our Strategic Plan and a clear linkage between all the relevant business units to form the basis of our new role in the post-Covid-19 local government landscape

•• Research and innovation to drive our development and growth as a department

•• Work in a business-oriented manner and always put people first in the context of Batho Pele principles, and

•• Instil a sense of working together and always strive for the best

Conclusion

Much preparation and planning has gone into this exercise for which we would like to thank the HOD, Mr Tubane, and the entire team Cogta. In order to give meaning to this Strategic Planning session, we must see active participation of all managers. Do not be timid to raise your point; there is no wrong answer but points can always be refined. Let us identify areas of challenges and our common approach for dealing with the lack of success. When you participate in this session, always think of the effect your ideas will have on the people on the ground.

I conclude these remarks by borrowing from the wise words of Khalil Gibran: “”Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”” The current Covid-19 crisis is a source of immense suffering for individuals and institutions alike. But I have no doubt that we will all emerge, as individuals and society, from this crisis stronger and more determined to reach for new heights. Today’’s Strategic Planning session is the first bold step in this direction.

I thank you!