News 72

[Junior Journey to the West]Departure of three women marks the end of an era

Update time:2021-07-14 19:05Tag:

  By Pali Lehohla

  In November 1982, I was appointed to the then Bophuthatswana statistics office. My first task was to prepare for the 1985 population census.

  Arriving in that homeland office were a young team of seven junior staff under the leadership of a white expert from Pretoria, Piet Bossert and the late Pericles Mothlabane who was the head of the organisation.

  The office was meant to compile statistics collected from businesses on imports and exports – the basis for financial transfers to the homeland under the regime of customs revenue. This was the main financing mechanism.

  Thirty-eight years later I am forced to look back at the journey because a number of those I started the organisation with are now retiring.

  As they leave office, what might I say we achieved with this juvenile junior team, none of whom had a degree at the time.

  I knew right from the beginning that I had to build a skill base that would have to replace me. In 1986 I prepared a document for skills development for the office and negotiated it with the then Univeristy of Bophuthatswana (Unibo), only to be answered four years later.

  The reply was not worth considering. What will we call the qualification was the response from the late Professor Phala (MHSRIP). By then I had started a programme with the HSRC which later got emboldened bu the intervention of Statomet at the University of Pretoria.

  The programme would see staff enrol for a degree in Statistics at the University of Pretoria after qualifying at Statomet. So, when 1994 came, the Bophuthatswana staff was well equipped to make a massive contribution in the leadership of StatsSA, especially in implementing its regional infrastructure.

  Three women retired this month, Ingrid Setshedi went to become the head of statistics at the level of chief director, in North West, Johannah Motshoaedi became the head of field operations at director level in the same office, and Gwen Lehloenya became a chief director in social statistics at the head office in Pretoria.

  The departure of the three women marks the passing of an era in the implementation of statistical programmes in South Africa.

  In the midst of all this, I cannot forget Pakiso Mothupi, who went on to head the public works department in the North West. Mothupi had an eye for detail and his enthusiasm and desire for education caught my eye.

  He quality checked the work of his colleagues and called them out without fear or favour.

  Mothupi went on to do demography at Unibo and MBA at the University of the North West. His controversial departure from North West has shocked me, because all that is not the Mothupi I knew and one I still know currently, who is driven by transparency and high ethics.

  Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa

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