Reaping the benefits of Lesufiism

2019-06-18 13:04
Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Sandile Ndlovu/Gallo)

Gauteng Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi. (Sandile Ndlovu/Gallo)

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The Premier of Gauteng was sworn into office and days later unveiled his cabinet. When we grew up, a cabinet was place where precious things were stored. Like tea cups only reserved when special people like teachers or priests visited.

Panyaza was moved to finance. No big deal. There was apparently volcanic unhappiness at this decision of the Premier. He melted and lost belief in his decision. Lesufi was back at education quicker than Des Weekend-special Van Rooyen served as Minister of Finance. The difference is that people have faith in MEC Lesufi.

We do not know why the premier had moved Panyaza to Finance but in matter a day he changed. It must have been a scary moment. What brought the sudden change of heart? We can only wonder.

1.       Was it the narrowest mandate given by the electorate that put fear in the premier? Did he think if he did not respond the defeat for ANC Gauteng in 2021 elections would be more decisive?

2.       Was he shown some analytics clearly demonstrating that he had erred in his decision? Maybe he did not read the handover report.

We shall never know but this decision revealed, in my humble opinion, a lot about ourselves.

I will call this revelation Lesufiism for ease of reference. A belief in the individual so much that we think no one but them can do things. This belief is dangerous. It gives a false sense of comfort because and it distracts us from dealing with the fundamental issues and goes for the ones that give immediate publicity. And possibly confuse visibility with effectiveness.

We are unconsciously conceding that Lesufi has not built a culture, systems and institutions at the GDE (Gauteng Department of Education) to serve as the roots. Maybe he did. We have instead made the person the roots.

In 1976 Tsietsi led our SSRC against the use of Afrikaans as a medium of instruction. When things became tough he went into exile and the SSRC continued to wage the fight. Khotso Seatlholo also left and the protest never lost momentum. That was 43 years ago. SSRC did not collapse. There is a lesson here for people in leadership.

But there is perhaps merit in letting Lesufi repeat a class. It is sad to be asked to repeat when you are celebrated publicly. Almost a year ago he was approached about a certain school in the township where the Principal is wreaking havoc against the not so new SGB.

He was approached through a mutual contact to help but he was not available.  Maybe such issues do not excite him or they do not make for good tweet. Early this year he was approached again through another mutual friend who is dedicated to the ANC and passionate about service delivery.

This time he responded by sending an e-mail to a chief director to attend to this issue as a matter of urgency. Credit to him.

The delegated person has done nothing.

As a follow-up, this chief director was approached. The less said about his response the better. But when pressed he asked for the contact details of the SGB chairperson of the school in question. It was duly given and I said to someone "he is not going to do anything. He is waiting to see if Lesufi is coming back or not. If he is not coming back, the issue is dead". Plans C, D & E are required for this issue not to be lost.

He must be sweating at the second coming of Lesufi at the department.

Some civil servants, those near the top, tend to develop strategies to out-wait cabinet ministers. Hoping they will be reshuffled or they will forget to follow-up because they know they neither have framework systems, time nor proper support around them to follow through.

At the time of writing this article it is a month and since he was reminded and he still has done nothing.

While Lesufiism is not good, his second coming gives him a greater opportunity to create impact. It may give him an opportunity to inculcate a good culture, systems and processes so that when the premier melts the next time he will tell him "don't worry, Premier, tell those who are complaining that we have a great team and systems, my successor will do better than me".

The late Anwar Sadat, then president of Egypt wrote, "politically and economically Nasser had left me a pitiable legacy. Two months after I came to power I abolished the state sequestration of private property. This was the symbol of restoration to the people of their long lost freedom." I am sure Lesufi's frenetic energy represented by tweets and introduction of electronic boards and opening high tech schools and raising the ire of AfriForum serves the same purpose as Anwar's actions. A champion of the people. But Anwar continued "but now everything is changing. With the help of my aides, friends and the cadres whom I have trained we have now built a state of institutions. The vice president and acting prime minister know every small detail in the workings of this country – inside out." Let's wish Lesufi does the same. That will be worth a celebration.

MEC Lesufi need to rely less on energy and optics but on analytics that the fourth industrial revolution can deliver if they desire is sustainable impact. Time is on their side in terms of political terms, five more years.

My other substantive wish is that Panyaza to rapidly make the need for private education in Gauteng irrelevant through public schools that deliver at the same level within 5 years. It is possible. He must worry less about what exams private schools write.

He needs the following Ds; discipline, dare, data, determination, direction, decisiveness and doubt free about preparing our kids for a better future. We need that.

Let's rely less on personalities and more on systems, structures, processes and institutions.

Tlhopheho Modise

Business and management consultant

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