UKZN’s School of Built Environment and Development Studies, in partnership with the Department of Public Services and Administration (DPSA), hosted the National Development Plan (NDP) and State Capacity Conference at the Unite Building on the Howard College campus.
The conference theme was: Reflections on State Capacity and Government Performance Through the First Ten Years of the National Development Plan.
The NDP is designed to strengthen democracy by ensuring South Africa has a functional government and a capable state.
Opening the conference, Dean and Head of the School Professor Ernest Khalema said: ‘The conference theme calls us to reflect and act towards bringing dignity to the lives of our people. As an institution of higher learning, we are cognisant of the scourge of helplessness and despondency on our campuses and have initiated intervention programmes to ensure that the experience of our students and subsequent learning is of value to the current socio-economic context; anchored within a decolonial praxis and transformative agenda borne of our struggle for liberation.’
Khalema highlighted the establishment of several strategic partnerships with government departments to address and support students and staff through establishing collaborations in student support, professional training, and knowledge sharing. ‘A student chapter of the Built Environment was established with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and we hope the initiative and others will enable us to comprehensively support and nurture the learning by our students.’
KZN Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube said: ‘Our partnerships are not only ensuring that the curriculum offered in universities responds to the economy and skills needed by the KZN province but also to partner with the University and the National School of Government (NSG) in the skilling, reskilling and upskilling of public servants.’
Dube-Ncube noted that there was a shortage of capacity across all spheres of government, leading to the uneven implementation of policies. ‘To be able to lead a state that is capable of playing a developmental and transformative role, the public service must be immersed in the development agenda and insulated from undue political interference. These factors must interact together in one direction to achieve the NDP goals, and transformation of our country at all levels,’ she said.
In addressing this challenge in KZN, Dube-Ncube said all municipal officials had been audited for skills and the audit revealed training needs for senior managers among others, financial management, strategic capability and leadership, risk management, change management, policy development, and monitoring and evaluation.
DPSA Deputy Minister Dr Chana Pilane-Majake reflected on professionalising the public service sector through effective innovation ideas, strategies and implementation to build a capable state with credible capacity for service delivery. ‘We need to build partnerships that are aligned to our theme of building social innovation partnerships for a capable developmental state,’ she said.
Acting Public Protector Ms Kholeka Gcaleka said the Public Protector Act was being amended to ensure that the office’s remedial actions for wrongdoing were implemented.
School Manager Ms Nonhlanhla Dlamini added: ‘The conference was exceptionally important in the area of professionalisation within the public sector which public institutions belong to. It was wonderful to see recognition of ethical and dedicated lifelong service of professional staff within government. I would like to thank the organisers, especially UKZN lecturer Dr Isaac Khambule, the logistics team from both DPSA and UKZN, and all other participants for attending and making contributions.’
The conference brought together a variety of stakeholders working in the field of state capacity and government performance, including academics, researchers, public servants and government leaders.
The full conference proceedings can be viewed on YouTube below: