Dr Harlan Cloete
Dr Harlan Cloete

Academia can influence policy in SA, says Maties’ Dr Cloete

By OWN Correspondent Time of article published Dec 2, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - A PhD developed by Stellenbosch University's Dr Harlan Cloete has proved to be influential in the development of the new municipal staff regulations published by Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma recently.

The regulations, which focus on how municipalities should recruit, maintain and develop their staff, will come into effect on July 1 next year.

​Cloete, an extraordinary lecturer at SU's School of Public Leadership (SPL), completed his PhD, entitled Human Resource Development in Local Government – a management perspective, in 2016 under the supervision of Professor Frederick Uys. He then led a research team to investigate the challenges facing skills development facilitators (SDFs) in the implementation of skills development interventions in South African municipalities. As a result, he developed the HRD for good municipal governance course (2017) and wrote an accompanying textbook, Guide to effectively manage Human Resource Development in South African Local Government (2019).

The HRD course was successfully implemented in municipalities in all nine provinces through the municipal capacity building programme of the Local Government SETA. To date more than 1 100 municipal officials have been trained including SDFs, HR officials, trade union members, training committee members and councillors. Cloete also developed a number of infographics as well as a cloud-based system to manage and measure HRD implementation in municipalities in 2021.

Cloete says most of the new municipal staff regulations are based on the integrated management framework for human resource development model that he proposed in his thesis (chapter 7) and his book (chapter 4, page 102- 136) and, as such, serves as a clear illustration of how academia can influence policy in South Africa.

“My work recognises that officials in municipalities are public servants with a collective sense of responsibility. I also expand on ethical values in my thesis and my book, and advocate that policies should be geared to achievement of an overall HR plan. This is now in the new regulations.

“Where currently human resource development is centralised, I proposed that if you really want to measure HRD you need to make sure that this is organised in a decentralised way. The regulations recognise this in that we now speak of departmental and individual needs analysis and development. It offers a more evidenced-based approach. I recommended in my thesis that managers cannot abdicate their responsibility and that HR merely supports them. This I refer to as the triad approach. The regulations now propose that skills development is a key performance area (KPA) of senior management and that management should submit monthly reports and annual skills reports. I further proposed that the manager must have performance conversations with the staff.

“Although training is the most popular option for development, I argue in my thesis that workplace learning such as on-the-job learning, job rotation, coaching and mentorships are now also recognised as platforms through which people can develop. This is now included in the regulations.

“I proposed that individuals need to take responsibility for their own development through the personal development plan. They need to have a say.

“I proposed that internal and external stakeholders must be identified and their roles clarified. The regulations now make the roles and responsibilities of these stakeholders clear."

Jasper van der Westhuizen, senior adviser at the SA Local Government Association (Salga) in the Western Cape, said Salga recognises and applauds the work of Cloete in the area of HRD.

“We are delighted that much of what Dr Cloete has been advocating for the last five years through his course is now captured in the municipal staff regulations that come into being in July 2022."

Acting Newcastle municipal manager Vish Govender said the sessions that Cloete had with their senior and line managers have cultivated interest in HRD programmes and also secured buy-in for the HRD and its day-to-day initiatives.

“This alone will revolutionise skills development in the Newcastle Municipality and ensure that HRD is supported with financial resources, facilities and necessary human capital."

Cloete, is currently working on his third book, Guide to effectively implement human resource development in South African local government – the eight non-negotiables.

“I am inspired and motivated by the late Professor Bongani Mayosi, who stated, there is no point in publishing papers, if they cannot be translated into better treatments, better survival, better quality of life and longer life for the people of South Africa. I want my work to make a difference and my research to be relevant to address real societal problems. I want to continue to explore evidence-based HRD governance systems in local government that improve efficiency of processes and effectiveness of results, that is... outputs, outcome, impacts," Cloete said.

Cape Times

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