ISSUE 14 | 2015
DHA CADETS MUST SPEARHEAD THE DEPARTMENT’S EFFORTS TO REIMAGINE AND REINVENT ITSELF
“Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio1.”
The quotation above was taken from one of William Shakespeare’s famous classics, Hamlet.
In the literature, the exact scene from where this was taken is sometimes referred to as the “Ghost Scene”.
This is a scene that involves somewhat a peculiar conversation between three of the lead characters, the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet’s friends, Barnardo, Horatio and Marcellus and their encounter with the ghost of Hamlet’s deceased father, the King.
It is in the middle of this strange and very frightening encounter in the play that after some serious deliberations, one of the friends, Marcellus, urges one of the enlightened and learned friends, Horatio, to be the one who communicates with the Ghost – and the reason that he provides for this is that, of the three, Horatio is a scholar – “Thou art a scholar.”
Over centuries, this particular quote by Shakespeare has been used by some of the leading minds in the social sciences to explain the onerous role and the arduous task that from time immemorial, societies have imposed on the shoulders of those people that they regard as scholars, intellectuals or elites.
As he was affectionately known to his followers, W.E.B, the famous William Edward Burghardt Du Bois, referred to this group of people as the “talented tenth”.
These are the people that, in today’s language, are most likely to fit the description of “the cream of the crop”.
Commenting on what he perceived as the role that society has come to expect such people to play in society, particularly in black communities, W.E.B Du Bois said in one of his celebrated books, The Souls of Black Folk, that “ like all races”, the black race is “going to be saved by its exceptional men”.
And of course one must add, also women.
Let me start saying that contrary to what you might think of yourselves, you are our cadres, our exceptional men and women who Du Bois referred to, or at least I hope that’s what the Learning Academy through this learnership or cadet programme has managed to achieve, successfully developing you into cadres or exceptional men and women.
I honestly and sincerely hope that no matter what your background or situation was at the time when you were enrolled on this learnership, that the training you received from the Learning Academy was, to a large extent, able to make us as a Department to realise our abiding dream.
That dream is to be a leading department in government and the country in growing our own timber by creating a holistic cadre of public servants who in their work ethics and their daily interaction with the general public, will not only mirror our values of being a customer-centric, caring and professional department, but also a department that is able to deliver services to our clients that are of high quality, efficient and secure.
The feedback I have been receiving from the public and from other parts of our Department is that in the eighteen months that you have been with us, you have been able to do just that.
This places you at the heart of the project to build a capable state, as envisioned in the National Development Plan.
And as you know, in the context of South Africa, as far as the actual role played by the “exceptional men and women” to which I have earlier alluded, of saving our nation, it would be best for me once again to begin this with the same quotation from Shakespeare’s Hamlet I mentioned earlier – “Thou art a scholar. Speak to it, Horatio.”
I have been made to believe that in English literature, just like the ghost of Hamlet’s father referred to in the play Hamlet, the symbolism of a ghost is usually equated with the mysteries of life which I am sure during your deployment in some of the troubled areas in our Department you have become so accustomed to.
It is for the same reason that I wish to remind you that in the context of government and Home Affairs, mystery represents, the unknown, the challenges or perhaps even a plethora of some of the strangest of problems that continue to bedevil not only us as a Department, and as a government, but also as a country.
In this way, I want to concur with Marcellus that among some of the key responsibilities societies tend to, in our case, the Department and the country have placed on all of us, is that of communicating with the mysteries of life.
The reason why as a department we expect the same from you, is because of this very same kind of expectation that any society, government or department places on anyone in whom it has invested the kind of resources that as a Department we have invested in your training and nurturing through this learnership.
Just like Horatio in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, because of the training you received, we expect you to assist Home Affairs, Government and the country to unravel some of the mysteries that continue to bedevil us.
In the same quotation I mentioned earlier from W.E.B Du Bois’ famous book, he makes a compelling argument about the part that societies, in our case, government, organisations, departments or the country should play in the preparation of these “exceptional men and women” who must ultimately save the nation from potential harm.
The prioritisation of their education should be of paramount importance.
According to Du Bois, “The problem of education, then, among Negroes (black people), must first of all deal with the Talented Tenth”.
He adds, that the problem; “is the problem of developing the best of this race that they may guide the mass away from the contamination and death of the worst”.
Home Affairs has a mass of officials who are stacked in the old ways of doing things who need to be guided by those who like yourself have been exposed to the kind of training that you have been exposed to.
This is what Du Bois says about the preparation part – “Now the training of men is a difficult and intricate task”.
I have no doubt that this is what you have been put through during this learnership.
Du Bois adds that the training of what is considered “exceptional men and women” who in our case, must save not only our department but our nation and country, whilst “its technique is a matter for educational experts”, “its object” must be a matter of “the vision of seers”.
I am told that through his leadership, our DG, Mr Mkuseli Apleni is a true visionary seer in that he was very instrumental in getting the Learning Academy to introduce the cadet programme in the Department.
I dare you to challenge the status quo and change the way things are in the department.
Accomplishing that is not going to be an easy task as the battle between the old and putrid refusing to die and the new battling to be born is often be vicious and requires great courage, unity of purpose and an unyielding “vision of seers”.
Much effort will be required of you not to imbibe the current culture of the department, mired in the old ways, but to inculcate a new culture into the department that will see the department viewed differently by our clients.
The beauty of youth lies precisely in your being beholden to no past and not married to the status quo.
Accordingly, you must hold the view very firmly that everything you see around you, no matter how solid it may in its current form look, is made of plastic material and is bound to change, and it will change.
Nothing we know today will be the same tomorrow, no matter how stubborn or resilient it is.
Ultimately, the youth are the catalysts of the future we want; your energy and dynamism give you an urge above all groups and generations in the zealous pursuit of the ideas in which you single-mindedly believe.
In an epic poem on the French Revolution, it is said: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
But to be young was very heaven!”
To be young, the poet says, is very heaven!
For you to play this role, you must expect that you will meet stubborn resistance from the department’s established culture and its conservative elements; they will seek to co-opt you into their way of viewing and doing things, to assimilate you into their putrid culture.
Cadres and cadets are expected to be the agents of the change we are pursuing at Home Affairs, and that change does not belong in the future, it starts now!
To become these agents of the change we are pursuing and play the role we want you to play, you need to have a different and new view of our department and of yourselves.
It starts with you and you must be ready for the battles that lie ahead.
Inspire us with your energy, dynamism and courage; and in addition, be innovative, never accept things the way they are and never, I repeat, never implement a dysfunctional system over and over without suggesting that we change it and how we can make it better.
Revolutionise Home Affairs, shake us out of our comfort zones and make us tremble at the very thought or sight of your service revolution you are advocating.
Strong organisations have an innate ability to reimagine and reinvent themselves; but that ability, innate as it is, does not build itself, it is consciously built.
The Home Affairs of the past must die and a new professional, efficient, caring and corruption-free Home Affairs must be born NOW!
Those professionals are you and introduce a new culture of professional, efficient, caring and corruption-free service that will remain forever ingrained in the hearts and minds of our people long after they have left the department.
Let our people remember us for the quality and professional service we gave them rather than for the aesthetic appearance of the offices we have where they receive unprofessional, inefficient, uncaring and corruption-riddled service.
We must all reimagine the department, no longer as the department of clerks – “omabhalane” – but a department at the crucial nexus between economic development, national security, governance and administration as well as service delivery.
This type of department, in comparison with the Department of Home Affairs we are striving so hard to kill, requires a new professional cadre such as yourselves.
I hope you are NOT at Home Affairs because you had no other options; I hope you are here because you genuinely want to make a difference; you have bona fide interests.
Out of you, we must address the glaring weakness of the past in the public service in general and our department in particular, which has seen the public service failing to address succession planning and growing its own timber.
The future Director-General of Home Affairs must emerge out of you; deputy DGs and Provincial Managers must emerge out of you.
Be here for the long-haul and be committed to working hard and continuing learn because a learning mind always discovers and invests – breeds – new ideas.
I would like to thank the Learning Academy and its management for the custodianship of this programme, and all those training experts inside and external to the Department, who played a role in your preparation.
I trust their training, and your diligent learning, have taken us a step closer to realising our dream of ultimately creating a crop of public servants who are caring, professional, patriotic, customer-centric, incorruptible, security conscious, and most importantly, service-oriented.
Go forth and build the capable state that will drive the development of South Africa and the realisation of Vision 2030.
Malusi Gigaba, MP
Minister of Home Affairs