Partners are lining up to support new ministers in the GNU

DA federal leader John Steenhuisen speaking to members of the media at the National Results Operations Centre, Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand. Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

DA federal leader John Steenhuisen speaking to members of the media at the National Results Operations Centre, Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand. Picture: Itumeleng English/Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 8, 2024


By Mankone Ntsaba

THE 32 ministers in South Africa’s new government of national unity (GNU) are getting to grips with their portfolios and the reality is that urgent action is required in multiple areas to address economic and social challenges.

The Kagiso Trust, one of South Africa’s leading development agencies working for sustainable socio-economic change, is particularly invested in the future of basic education and agriculture, seeing that these as key areas for its mission to loosen the shackles of poverty that bind millions of citizens.

It so happens that these two ministries are now headed by members of the DA – Siviwe Gwarube at basic education and John Steenhuisen at agriculture – but it is to be hoped that the political complexion of all ministers in the GNU will be less significant than the energy, openness and commitment they bring to their jobs.

With that in mind, I have words of encouragement for Gwarube and Steenhuisen, and an offer of support and solidarity. They stem from the Kagiso Trust’s strong conviction, developed over decades of developmental work in education and agriculture, that the sectors are repositories of immense goodwill and willingness to embrace transformation.

Partnerships in education

In basic education, the Kagiso Trust and numerous other agencies, non-government and non-profit organisations have developed and implemented innovative programmes that have had remarkable success in improving outcomes.

One of these was a pilot for the trust’s District Whole School Development Model, introduced in the Free State in 2016. The aim, in partnership with the provincial education department, districts, schools, educators, parents and learners, is to transform public school education by focusing on the development of educators, school management teams and infrastructure.

Over eight years, more than 600 schools with 800 000-plus learners have benefited from the programme, and we believe it is not coincidental that in 2023 the Free State’s matric pass rate reached a record of 89%. It was the highest in the country and reflected “the dedication and effective educational strategies employed in the Free State”, according to the Department of Basic Education.

This is rewarding, of course – and we’re confident of even greater impact when interventions at early childhood development level start to feed into matric results – but more important for the model’s potential is a key lesson about the best way to implement it: the government must lead the charge.

At the Kagiso Trust, we have found that interventions must be grounded in government priorities if they are to stand a chance of success.

More than that, even though a broad alliance of stakeholders is necessary to ignite and sustain meaningful change in education, provincial departments must take responsibility for managing the change.

While the trust developed and supports the model implemented in the Free State (and recently extended to Limpopo), the strategy has always been to build capability in the department to assume full responsibility for its implementation and sustainability.

The Kagiso Trust’s District Whole School Development Model is just one example of forward-looking models that will provide food for thought as Gwarube gets to grips with her challenging portfolio.

The trust and its many counterparts working to unleash the potential of learners nationwide stand ready to work in partnership with the minister and provincial education departments, supporting schools to reach the highest levels of functionality and performance.

Partnerships in agriculture

Steenhuisen will quickly discover that the agriculture sector is also deeply invested in equitable growth and transformation. Commercial farmers and the organisations and supply chains that support them are active in embracing and mentoring small-scale farmers, and numerous initiatives are enthusiastically sharing skills and resources.

One of these sector partners is the Kagiso Trust’s socio-economic development programme, which invests in and promotes small businesses in the agriculture and property sectors. It does so in the belief that entrepreneurship has the power to create positive change and catalyse broad socio-economic transformation.

The trust recognises that sourcing appropriate funding is one of the major challenges small-scale farmers face as they attempt to grow and commercialise their operations; many of them do not own the land they farm and have no collateral. That’s why the trust’s Tyala Impact Fund collaborates with financial institutions and investors to unlock a holistic funding solution.

Relationships between Tyala and farmers extend beyond funding to skills development, technical assistance and access to markets, and so far the fund has participated in transactions worth close to R30 million and unlocking additional funding for partners who have gone on to create about 886 jobs in agriculture.

The fund also works to resuscitate unproductive communal and government-owned or leased land, and it has forged partnerships with some of South Africa’s largest producers, retailers and brands to transform the agricultural value chain for small-scale farmers, at the same time as building their capacity.

Stronger together

There’s a powerful message for the new government in the often-unheralded successes being achieved in basic education and agriculture thanks to collaborations involving business, sector representative organisations, NGOs, NPOs and civil society.

And it’s a message reinforced by the formation of the GNU itself: South Africa’s future will be about partnerships.

As the Springboks memorably put it after winning the Rugby World Cup in 2019 and repeating the feat last year, we are stronger together. When we all pull in the same direction, with the same objective, strategy and tactics, we have the ability to attain whatever ambition we set for ourselves.

It would be naive to suggest the new government and its ministers will not encounter obstacles but, with broad-based partnerships to fortify them, the vision of a prosperous, peaceful, equitable and just society is now firmly within our grasp.

Mankone Ntsaba is the chairperson of the Kagiso Trust.