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Former UKZN chancellor graduates with master’s Former UKZN chancellor graduates with master’s
From graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the erstwhile University of Natal in 1982 to serving the University of... Former UKZN chancellor graduates with master’s

From graduating with a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery from the erstwhile University of Natal in 1982 to serving the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) as the second Chancellor from 2009 to 2017, graduating again at the age of 68 is no mean feat for Dr Zweli Mkhize who was awarded a Master of Administration at a graduation ceremony held on the UKZN Westville campus tonight, 7 May 2024.

Service Delivery at the Provincial Sphere of Government: A Case Study of Operation Sukuma Sakhe (OSS) in KwaZulu-Natal was the title of Mkhize’s study under the supervision of UKZN public governance specialist Professor Purshottama Reddy.

During his tenure as the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal from 2009 to 2017, Mkhize observed that local government was plagued by ineffective service delivery, mainly due to poor co-ordination, power contestations caused by overlapping constitutional mandates, a lack of cooperation and poor alignment of state entities. In response to these challenges, the provincial administration under Mkhize’s leadership introduced the Operation Sukuma Sakhe (OSS) model to improve service delivery and eradicate structural poverty and inequality in the province.

He said that he decided to focus his research on the OSS model as, during his time as premier, the project attracted a large number of scholars: “Several master’s and doctoral theses were produced, and the OSS model formed a foundation for the District Development Model implemented by the national government.” As an avid scholar, he was keen to contribute to this body of research.

Commenting on his journey, Mkhize said, “It was a challenging but rewarding journey. I personally interviewed all 22 respondents during the difficult days of COVID-19 with restrictions while balancing all other demands and responsibilities of the time.”

The study revealed various shortcomings in service delivery despite the effectiveness of the OSS model. The lack of common understanding of the policy led to inconsistent application and changing emphasis on each programme when leadership changed. “The study highlighted many subjective and objective factors that affect our public services such as poor and uncoordinated planning and budgeting and poor implementation of programmes as well as poor supervision and a lack of community consultation to address community discontent,” he said.

Mkhize has had an illustrious career in politics as an anti-apartheid activist and also served as the Minister of Health and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, amongst many other high-profile portfolios in government.

“I have had extensive experience in public administration since the dawn of democracy. During this era, practitioners had the innovation, creativity and ability to explore new approaches and solutions to address challenges that had not been experienced before.” He added that the OSS model was one such solution that developed organically but was not preceded by in-depth academic research on the concept.

A firm believer in continuous education, he said, “Senior public administrators should be engaged in continuous learning and academic research as they would acquire new knowledge that bolsters their experience and improves their performance.” Academic advancement would enable public administrators to contribute to generating new information in their practice and create an environment that deepens professionalism and improves service delivery.

Regarding his achievement, Mkhize said he feels fulfilled and is grateful to his family, peers, and supervisor for their inspiration throughout his research journey. “I hope this will inspire younger generations, leaders and public servants to embrace postgraduate education and pursue ever-widening horizons in academic research,” he commented.

Reddy congratulated Mkhize on his achievement, describing him as an exemplary student: “It was a pleasure working with Dr Mkhize because he is hard-working, cooperative and willing to contribute to the knowledge base in the field of public governance.” Mkhize and Reddy have started sharing their research as co-authors of two chapters in two books – one on managing the COVID-19 pandemic as part of an international study and another on service delivery at the provincial sphere of government with a focus on OSS. 

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