It is a principle he is known for by even his friends at school and as well as his teachers, writes MASIBONGWE SIHLAHLA
Sihle Zikalala has always stood out as a hands-on leader in every portfolio he has served in but also in the ANC. He is an ethical leader that stands for justice which by implication means he is an intrepid leader. A leader who stands for justice is a leader who stands for something, Zikalala is one such leader.
It is proven in the realm of politics that the culture of money has made everyone have a price, but not Zikalala who has stood out from the rest. In his eyes, there is no price higher than the economic comfort and development of his people. It is a principle he is known for by his friends in school, politics and as well as his teachers.
Being principled is not a public relations exercise for Zikalala as it is for so many leaders who are embedded in money politics. Zikalala has a long and documented history of principles. It is something he is known for even by his political enemies.
Surely if you are a principled person who does not give in to corruption and wastage of public funds, you are bound to make enemies if you are in the public domain. A weak leader would have folded in the face of such pressure but Zikalala has been driven all the years by his desire to make life better for all. As Premier of KwaZulu-Natal (KZN), he touched the lives of ordinary people, he has gone out of his way to make a difference.
Born on 6 August 1973 in the little town of Ndwedwe about one hour drive north of Durban in the then Natal. Zikalala holds a Bachelor of Arts in Communication Science. In April 2017, he was awarded a Bachelor of Administration Honours cum laude by the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).
Zikalala went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Commerce from the Graduate School of Business and Leadership in 2019 – why I am divulging this to give the public information that even being busy as the number one public servant in KZN he has used his very little private time to continue with his studies and thus serve as a role model to all and sundry.
He is a man who walks the talk, what better leader can the people want? In today’s world, as illiterate as I am, I want my leaders to be educated and make decisions that will be in the interest of economic development and the reduction of unemployment and poverty. Zikalala is well positioned as the current national Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure to advance the resolutions of the ANC national conference.
His principled and ethical leadership style inspires many within the ANC but as an academic, he is the kind of leader who is able to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people on the ground. With his education accolades and his grounding as a leader over many years especially at school and in the ANC Youth League, he elicits trust in people, a person the man in the street can relate to, a down-to-earth person.
He played a key role in ensuring water provision when large parts of the water reticulation system in KZN were damaged by the floods in 2022. In so doing, he demonstrated to the voters that he listens and that he was in touch with the difficulties the people endured.
On 6 March 2023, Zikalala was appointed to the cabinet of President Cyril Ramaphosa and although he is only now nearly 4 months in the post he has already accomplished a lot.
It was a no-brainer that Zikalala was going to be incorporated into the cabinet at the national level as he has a well-documented track record whilst serving as premier, having fixed a number of failing municipalities, building and repairing infrastructure, especially after the 2022 floods.
As a long-established leader and with his academic record, implementing plans and the development of new master plans have also caught the eye of President Ramaphosa. Zikalala has also stood out for pushing “radical socio-economic transformation” in a strategic and economically responsible manner. He is the most prominent politician who is pushing the black industrialist programme at all levels.
He is also on record for decrying the poor work performance of public servants such as teachers, police and health workers as well as civil servants whether directors or senior managers and has publicly rebuked them and is on record for demanding that the relevant managers take disciplinary action.
For too long, the ANC has suffered as a party because there are civil servants and public servants who deliver poor service and in some cases, others are guilty of corruption. Zikalala took action against those despite this being an unpopular decision in the ANC.
Zikalala is well placed to advise President Ramaphosa on the District Development Model. The DDM is a great plan on paper which aims to interlink the national government directly with district municipalities. Zikalala’s expertise while serving as a member of the executive council in KZN in the Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs portfolio will assist in rolling out the model.
He is one of the few national ministers who have a track record on the ground, his academic vigour and vision will assist the cabinet in various programmes undertaken. His groundbreaking programmes such as the Bulk Buying and Warehousing Programme as well as the Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation (RASET) will obviously inform his decisions in his new ministerial post.
With ethical leaders like Zikalala, our country is in good hands and our people can rest assured that there are people like him who have their interests at heart. Our country needs young energetic academic ministers like Zikalala to take us to the developmental state we envisioned.
*Sihlahla Independent Writer and Political Analyst.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Republic Mail and its associates.