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Limpopo’s new MECs committed to serving their people

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YOLANDE NEL
>>observer.yolande@gmail.com

A week ago speculation about possible takers for positions on Premier Stan Mathabatha’s Executive Council (Exco) dominated news headlines.
Names were up for rent as preferences did the rounds. By now excitement has waned.
Seven days later the new incumbents have already picked up the batons to run their respective races, bravely anticipating any hurdles they may encounter along the way.
Financial management challenges most critical within Education Department
The fact that so-called warrior blood gushes through his veins may stand Maaria Ishmael Kgetjepe in good stead in his endeavours as Limpopo’s new Education MEC. A descendant of King Sekhukhune, he reckoned it was a tough legacy to emulate while exposed to different terrain but still he found inspiration from history. Being moved from Health, Kgetjepe was given the responsibility of caretaker of the biggest department that claims almost more than half of the provincial budget.
In an interview with Polokwane Observer he conceded to facing immense challenges and expressed the belief that they had to hit the ground running. In the first few weeks he would be familiarising himself with the workings of the department, progress in terms of the programme for the year and the best way of doing things.
The most critical area was financial management challenges within the department, he stressed. Much energy would be focussed on difficulties in that area.
Together with Provincial Treasury they would be able to look at what could be achieved, Kgetjepe said and he added that he would need to look at the implementation of recommendations by the administration team and move the department towards improved audit results. Other matters to receive attention include reaching the matric results target and curriculum changes.
Premier Stan Mathabatha initially invited him to serve in the Health portfolio and subsequently assigned him to Education, a responsibility he would give his best shot, he assured.
Apart from matters of governance demanding Kgetjepe’s time, he is otherwise committed to political engagement as Chairperson of the African National Congress (ANC) in the Sekhukhune Region or traditional responsibilities, it was learnt. When the dad of six, varying in age between 6 and 23 years, still has a rare moment to spare it would be to watch a football match.
Importance of culture of serving greater community of Limpopo
For Rob Tooley his appointment as Provincial Treasury MEC symbolises a full circle. Five years after his departure as head of the same department, his homecoming has manifested itself in a different capacity. On his second day in office, he said the new position was a challenge and he felt extraordinarily humbled that the Premier had that confidence in him. Not for one moment had he imagined ever occupying the MEC’s chair, he indicated.
Doing more with less was most important, Tooley emphasised. They had to make sure they spent government’s money properly and actually impact on those quarters of society that needed services, he explained. “We just need to get it functioning as we think it should.” He stressed the importance of the culture of serving the greater community of Limpopo.
At the same time Provincial Treasury would continue to be vigilant about management of cash and the systems and controls in place would be retained, and if necessary get beefed up, Tooley added.
Essentially partial administration of five provincial government departments was introduced because the cash flow was not being managed, he said and in that regard added that he had complete confidence in the management of the department.
Having been department head before gave him kind of a comparative advantage, without usurping anybody’s power or authority while ensuring the department continued on that trajectory. Tooley said he wouldn’t have taken up the challenge posed by the Premier if he doubted the collective could make a difference. “We’re going to give it our best shot and we’re going to be able to account for what we are spending, and we trust that by doing that we are going to impact on improving the conditions of people’s lives,” he said when asked for a message to the people of the province.
With work commitments surely about to start devouring his time, there would probably not be much opportunity left for pursuing his interests in horse riding, fly fishing or farming on the soil he is so fond of. But on the other hand, the fact that the people of Limpopo are sleeping sound at night knowing he is steering the team taking care of their finances should be consolation enough.
No-fuss approach to public healthcare
Newly appointed Health MEC Phophi Ramathuba is a no-fuss, no-frills person, whose dictionary is devoid of the word “impossible”. Seemingly she wouldn’t hesitate getting down to the origin of the problem, knowing that in the healthcare sphere any delayed reaction could result in the worst case scenario. After years in the public healthcare sector, she has vast knowledge of the challenges facing the structures resorting under her portfolio. It includes the necessity to build primary healthcare structures, pre-empt and reduce drug stock outs, address ageing and dilapidated infrastructure and prioritise leadership, management and accountability at facilities.
Her no-nonsense approach to the way the public healthcare system should operate, would most probably come as good news to vulnerable persons depending on it. They would appreciate the urge for restoring confidence in the system and bringing healthcare to their doorstep.
She is inspired by Che Guevara, who was not only a revolutionary but also a physician, whose integrated approach to the healthcare system she singles out. Giving modern day perspective to her encompassing take on the provision and management of healthcare to state patients, Limpopo surely stands to benefit from Phophi Ramathuba occupying that hot seat reserved for the MEC for Health.