Keynote Address by the Deputy Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Ms Phelele Tengeni During The Farewell Function of the Chairperson, Dr Ralph Mgijima on 27 January 2011

Programme Director
Honourable members of Parliament
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Today we bid farewell to our Chairperson and comrade, Dr Ralph Mgijima, who spent the better part of his life in the Commissions journey of the transformation of the Public Service and creating a better life for all. Dr Mgijima is a modest man and I know he would prefer that I do not sing his personal praises, but his achievements as a Commissioner based in Gauteng and Chairperson of the PSC are remarkable.

Just like Oliver Tambo, a key to Dr Mgijimas character is that he is an intellectual in the best meaning of that word. He has proven during his tenure as Commissioner and Chairperson, to be a person of reason and rationale thought. This great ability and gift of reason has contributed to the Commissions task of ensuring the transformation of the Public Service through its oversight work.

I remember when the former Chairperson of the Public Service Commission, Professor Stan Sangweni retired in June 2009, Dr Mgijima felt that Profs boots were too heavy to be filled. However, because he is an intellectual in his own right and a great leader, Dr Mgijima filled Profs boots with distinction and steered the Commission to greater heights.

Dr Mgijima has certainly carved his own mark in the history of the Public Service Commission and I am sure that current and next generation of Commissioners and leaders in the PSC will find indelible prints of his wisdom when continuing with the Commissions journey of creating a better life for all.

George W Cummings describes leadership as the ability to see what no one else sees, to listen when others talk and the ability to be optimistic when others are pessimistic. Chairperson, true to George Cummings description,

  • You have shown great leadership by steering this organisation during trying times particularly during the recession.
  • You ensured that the Commission produces quality reports that contribute meaningfully to public administration
  • You ensured that the Commission engages Parliament and Legislatures across the country on its products. In the financial year 2010/ 2011 indeed the PSC saw a phenominal increase in the number and depth of engagements with parliamentarians both at National and Provincial levels and in its media profile.
  • You ensured that the Commission conducts its investigations without fear or favour
  • The PSC expressed its views fearlessly when circumstances so demanded
  • You lobbied aggressively for the financial independence of the PSC
  • You established unprecedented relations with ISDs and the Office on ISDs
  • You generously gave the institution the space to grow increasingly towards a democratic environment in whose structures open and frank communication flows freely.
Ladies and gentlemen, Dr Mgijima has certainly served the Public Service Commission and the entire Public Service with pride. Having said that, allow me to give you a glimpse of the caliber of our outgoing Chairperson.

Ralph as he is affectionately known attended high school at St Johns College in Umtata and studied at the University of Natals Medical School. As a student, Ralph was very active in community development projects in and around Durban, and was founder member of the South African Students Organisation (SASO). As an activist, the activities of the African National Congress (ANC) and the subsequent attention from the Special Branch he was forced into exile two months before sitting for final year examinations at the Medical School. Ralph subsequently completed his MBCHB at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka, Zambia in 1977. He obtained a diploma in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine in the United Kingdom (UK).

He worked as a Chief Medical Officer and managed hospitals and districts services in the Southern African Countries of Angola, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. He was appointed to direct Health Services for the ANC in various Southern African Countries. Dr Mgijima is accredited for various leadership courses in health services and civil service management. He coordinated the drafting of the ANC Health Policy and contributed to the health section of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) in 1994. He has undertaken many study tours and attended International Conferences throughout the world. In South Africa, he has played a number of roles such as the Secretary of Health for the ANC, Consultant for the Johannesburg City Council, and Superintendent General of Health in Gauteng.

Dr Mgijima has sat on various Boards such as the South African Institute of Medical Research (SAIMR), Health Policy Coordinating Unit, National Children Rights Committee and the National AIDS Committee of South Africa. He was appointed as Commissioner resident in Gauteng in 2001. In July 2009, he was appointed Chairperson of the Public Service Commission. Currently, Dr Mgijima is Deputy Chairperson of the Board of the National Health Laboratory Service, a panel member and a member of the Performance Audit Committee for Senior Managers and the AIDS Council respectively for the City of Johannesburg.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am sure you will agree with me that Dr Mgijimas profile speaks for itself. He has certainly made a contribution to the Republic and touched the lives of ordinary people both inside and outside the country.
When former President Nelson Mandela retired in 1999, he referred to himself as a retired old pensioner and when he retired from the public life he remarked to reporters at his final media briefing Dont call me, I will call you. So I was tempted to call you a retired pensioner but I will not do so. Why? Because you have so much to offer and I am sure ordinary South Africans will continue to benefit from your wisdom. The Commission will certainly tap into that wisdom.

As we bid you farewell, I would like to take this opportunity on behalf of the Commission to thank you for being part of this exciting organisation for the past ten years. I would also like to thank your family for the times that they had to take a back seat, as too frequently the demands of the organisation came first.

Farewell and God bless.

Thank you


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