David Makhura – the New Premier of Gauteng: The Background!

2014-05-20 13:23

“Where is your bursary application chief?”

I pulled the application from an envelope and handed it to him.

“Here it is sir”

After several seconds or a full minute perusing the document, he reflected;

“So they awarded you this bursary but now they are turning around saying it is “undetermined?”

“Yes sir” I replied.

“Did you submit your results?”

“Yes sir” I responded

“Come follow me”

That was my first personal encounter and conversation with David Makhura, who has now emerged as the new Premier of Gauteng Province – the economic heartbeat of the Continent of Africa. Gauteng seems to be a country within a country.

When that conversation happened, David Makhura was the President of the Student Representative Council (SRC) at the University of the North that is now called University of Limpopo. That was early 1990s. I was awarded a Kagiso Trust bursary (which was a study grant facility of the European Union but was managed internaly by the University). And somehow there appeared to be an administrative problem in finalizing the awarding of the bursary. And David Makhura ensured that the problem was resolved. He was a down to earth student leader - that is the first quality I can mention upfront about him.

As SRC president he touched many students with his hands on solutions oriented leadership. He was a science student studying for a Bachelor of Science degree and often you will find him walking around the campus with a white flowing lab coat – coming or going to the Mathematics and Natural Sciences building or the Library.

As a student leader he kept a Spartan life style, and stayed away from the glitterati and the fashionista, and any form of sinful ease. He did not execute his leadership duties with petty egotism - a genuflection at the altars of one’s arrogant importance and the boasting in short-sightedness that is common among leaders nowadays.

The student mass meetings he called were jam-packed to full capacity and often overflowing outside. During the meetings he was very adept at wrong footing all the people who make an effort to second-guess or under-estimate him, but always he was ever at home with every group.

He knew he was a representative of all students. This leadership trait will carry him well as the Premier of Gauteng – it will be  resource as he navigate the complexities of running such a massive African economic empire.

A university community, especially that of a relatively isolated residential university such as University of the North is a microcosm of the greater community in which it exists and functions. The idea of a university’s position in the wider world is of fundamental importance to the performance of the university itself. This was seen by the 17th century English poet, John Donne when he opined that: no university is an island, entire of itself.

The greater community which the University of the North located was rural and greatly disadvantaged. David Makhura as student president was ever alert of this reality. His student leadership was extended even beyond the University. As SRC President he initiated a project where schools around the university were assisted: he organized winter schools where university students will volunteer to teach at these schools during University winter vacations.

Out of those humble initial developments, currently the University of Limpopo has a Rural Development and Innovation Hub.

Those were the times when the President of the SRC had vast powers to even equaling those of the University Vice-Chancellor and Principal.

David Makhura’s zeal and mission was to unite the university community: to get rid of the adversarial relationship between students and the university management. He ran a modern open student presidency where often he will be early in his office at the Student Chambers handling a myriad of student problems.

There was a Central Cultural Committee with a University of the North Film Society that provided much needed entertainment to students in the spirit of a small college town in a 300 acre campus. Features which never escapes the notice within the campus were the baobab tress on the small hills of the university and the Coral trees or Bergvlamme that were conspicuous in spring season, when they were transformed into brilliant sprays of red flowers. For us students the brilliant beautiful sprays of these flowers heralded not only summer, but the ominous approach of the tough year-end examinations.

Such park-like campus picturesque provided much needed calmness and an education of mind and heart that resonated with student leadership we had that time under David Makhura. His reign was a period of stability and peace after a turbulent period - a past period where Turfloop was an atrocious and hyper political brigandage! He sought to make the SRC become a disciplined, ideas-driven platform that serves the genuine interests of all students.

We need more leaders David Makhura's caliber in these days of infamy where some leaders think that by mere assuming of public positions means that the world is out there to serve their narrow insularities.

Just shows that anytime that you think you have hit the top of the mountain, the truth of the matter is you have just reached another mountain, and it is there to climb over again. Bravo.

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