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Exclusive interview with the Executive Mayor of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Khunjuzwa Eunice Kekana

Exclusive interview with the Executive Mayor of the Sarah Baartman District Municipality, Khunjuzwa Eunice Kekana

Local government in the Eastern Cape, as across South Africa, seldom makes for stimulating reading nowadays, especially when considering how so many municipalities fail to manage their own books while consistently flouting procurement processes. However, there are a few that insist on being the exception – like the Sarah Baartman District Municipality.

Previously called the Cacadu District Municipality and led by Executive Mayor Khunjuzwa Eunice Kekana since 2011, the municipality remains a shining example of good leadership and proper administration in the province.

Under the guidance of Executive Mayor Kekana, the municipality received a Clean Audit Opinion – denoting a clean bill of health in municipal finance terms, from the Auditor-General of South Africa for the 2013/2014 financial year, in December last year. This was the first time an Eastern Cape municipality achieved a Clean Audit in a decade.

It was to be expected though, as the Mayor was determined that her administration achieves this prized achievement in municipal financial management by 2014 – coincidentally the deadline set for all municipalities by the late Minister for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Sicelo Shiceka, when he launched Operation Clean Audit 2014 in 2009. 

Building up to the Clean Audit, Mayor Kekana’s administration also extended its record of Unqualified Audit Opinions, which is still positive but one level lower than the Clean Audit, to seven – an unprecedented achievement in the Eastern Cape. Were it not for incorrectly categorised assets, the municipality would have achieved a Clean Audit in the 2012/2013 financial year.

For her contributions to local government, Mayor Kekana herself was awarded the Eastern Cape Mayor of the Year in 2013 and 2014 at the prestigious VUNA Awards.

Who is Executive Mayor Kekana

Born in Graaff-Reinet, the Executive Mayor is a qualified teacher by profession and started her career at Isibane Primary and Inyameko Adult Center in the same area after graduating at Lovedale Training College in Alice.

She remains a rare breed of leaders who have remained true to the ideals of developing people and the communities in which they live. Measuring over 58 000 square kilometres, the Sarah Baartman District Municipality is historically one of the poorest in the Eastern Cape.

The Mayor has said she entered politics after her late father was jailed for entering a ‘whites only’ shop. At one point, during a State of Emergency, her mother and younger brother were also severely beaten and tortured while in police custody.

Following the 1994 democracy, she was elected to serve as a Councillor in the Camdeboo Local Municipality in 2000, before becoming a Portfolio Councillor for Infrastructure and Social Services at the then Cacadu District Municipality in 2005. She held this position until her election as Executive Mayor.

Among her chief attributes, is that she has humanised the office of the Executive Mayor in her municipality. She is known to take personal interest in the people around her, especially those in need of assistance. She reputedly attends all her municipality’s council meetings and is known for making an effort to understand the grievances or attend to requests from residents in the Sarah Baartman District.

Business Link magazine recently managed to secure some time with Mayor Kekana to ask her a few questions:

Business Link Magazine (BLM): Now that you have achieved a Clean Audit, what is your next goal?

Mayor Kekana (MK): Our next goal is to ensure that we continue and sustain Clean Audit Outcomes without placing an emphasis on certain matters.

BLM: You are well-respected by both the community and the employees of the municipality.  How would you describe your management style?

MK: I believe in an assertive, adaptable and conscious style of management but above all, respect needs to be shown to anyone, regardless of age, colour or creed.

BLM: What would you say is the biggest problem facing the Sarah Baartman district and how do you plan to tackle this problem?

MK: The biggest problem that gives us sleepless nights is the performance of our local municipalities.  We set ourselves a target that by the end of 2014, all our local municipalities would improve on their Audit Outcomes. Sadly though, four out of our nine local municipalities received Disclaimers which is a worry.

BLM: On a more personal level, we notice that you drive a Volvo XC60. What made you choose this vehicle?

MK: My son’s dream car from when he was in Grade 1 was a Volvo. I made a promise to him that when I manage to buy a car one day for our family, it would be a Volvo. The XC60 is the official council vehicle, but I have previously owned an S40 and an S60 as my personal vehicles.