While it is important to assert one’s worth and capabilities, women should also celebrate the strength of their femininity.
“As we keep facing different challenges whilst we implement our various responsibilities, we need to keep asserting our worth and capabilities without compromising our femininity because there is strength in our feminine nature,” says Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Director-General, Nomfundo Tshabalala.
For the accounting officer at the DFFE, a typical day in the office includes many meetings, problem solving and administrative duties. For her, life as a public servant is rewarding.
“Life as public servant is rewarding, given that you are serving the citizens of South Africa and contributing towards the improvement of the livelihoods of people,” says the DG who took over the post in February 2021.
Like in most things in life, it is not without its own hardships.
“There are equally many challenges which come with being a public servant and everyday one has to work hard and find solutions to overcoming these difficulties,” she tells SAnews.
Despite this, work continues to execute the department’s mandate and core business of managing, protecting and conserving South Africa’s environment and natural resources.
The tabling of South Africa’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) for submission to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is among the highlights since her arrival at the department.
“The finalisation and submission of the updated NDC will support South Africa’s achievement of the objectives outlined in the National Climate Change Response Policy (2011), and implementation thereof will constitute South Africa’s fair contribution to the global effort to address the climate change crisis, and fulfil South Africa’s applicable obligations under the Paris Agreement.”
In September 2021, the department announced that it would deposit the updated NDC with the UNFCCC. The NDC represents South Africa’s contribution to global efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
She also counts the introduction of South Africa’s Climate Change Bill in Parliament on 18 February 2022, as a feather in the department’s cap.
“This comes more than three years after an earlier version of the Bill was first published for public comment on 8 June 2018. The processing of the bill is on track. It is part of work towards enacting legislative measures for the development of an effective climate change response and a long-term, just transition to a low-carbon and climate-resilient economy and society for South Africa in the context of sustainable development.”
She also highlights the report of the High Level Panel (HLP) established to review policies, legislation and practices on matters related to the management, breeding, hunting, trade and handling of elephant, lion, leopard and rhinoceros.
The recommendations of the report were informed by the need to provide policy certainty, legislative coherence and a stable base for conservation, growth and development; ending irresponsible, inhumane and unsustainable practices that greatly harm the reputation of South Africa.
The report’s recommendations were also informed by the repositioning of South Africa as a leader in conservation and also promoting Africa’s coherence and unity in relation to these species as well as to better balance the country’s economic, social, cultural and natural heritage needs among others.
Tshabalala who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics and Accounting and a Masters in Science focusing on Development Finance as well as a Master in Business Leadership (MBL), also took stock of the lessons learnt along the way.
“Some of the lessons learnt is that the process of change is continuous and will not take place overnight. We have skilled professionals and need to ensure that critical vacancies are filled so that we have the capacity to implement our key programmes.”
She adds that it is equally important to ensure regular communication with stakeholders.
“Issues of the environment are cross cutting and there is a need to strengthen intergovernmental relations so that as government we harness our collective energies and resources for high level impact and synergies and avoid duplication of effort.”
The department boasts competent professional officials who are experts within their core environmental fields.
“My job is to harness this energy and provide strategic direction to improve governance and enhance compliance to administrative prescripts. My focus is to build a culture of change where there is leadership and accountability,” she explains.
In his Women’s Day address to the nation earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that more than 60% of the country’s public servants are women.
As the DG, Tshabalala works closely with Minister Barbara Creecy and Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu. The two leaders have a “very hands on” approach to their work.
“They provide a conducive environment for me to fulfil my role as the accounting officer,” she says.
Looking to the future
Tshabalala says that while a lot has been done to address issues like unemployment, the scourge of gender-based violence and poverty, more needs to be done.
“Much has been done to address these factors, however, there is still more that needs to be done. Amongst a number of interventions that government has put in place such as various legislation, policies and various frameworks for the empowerment of women in government, women issues still remain a challenge that needs to be addressed.”
“We must continue to extensively empower and inspire women to become resilient and effective leaders that form part of building a capable, developmental and ethical government. We must move forward together and leave no women behind,” says Tshabalala.