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Growing up in Stellenbosch, or rather on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, the divide between the ‘proper’ town and the suburbs were obvious, and it remains very similar today, 22 years after democracy. So how do we innovate to the benefit of all inhabitants of Stellenbosch?

Admission of the problem is half the answer, but attitude and behaviour changes are required! So the question is what to do to change the status quo? So is it a STELLENBOSCH municipality maintaining the OLD or is a STELLENBOSCH municipality embracing the NEW?

Envisioning a new vibrant municipality that stands for

S          = Sustainable for ALL
T          = Technological advancement
E          = Economic Opportunities for ALL
L          = Living the vision
L          = Leveraging of each other
E          = Environmental awareness
N          = Novel approaches
B          = Big ideas and delivery
O          = Options and opportunities
S          = Strategic engagements or Supporting each other
C          = Caring and consideration
H          = Home

I believe that all inhabitants of the municipality will opt for the above, a NEW Stellenbosch. So how we do this, the process is not easy nor obvious. There are a couple of building blocks that should embraced and adhere to. Below are the 5 fundamental blocks (and yes, it has been said many times but how to make it real?):

1.     Partnerships
2.     Sustainable development
3.     Youth mobilisation
4.     Coordination
5.     Change management.

Let’s take each one and create a pathway for each that are workable and practical, after all municipalities have the mandate to deliver basic services.


Easy on the ear, difficult to build but even more difficult to maintain. So what partnerships are happening? How do we make it work better and smarter? How do we leverage these partnerships?

Here is the flow:

1.     Establish a database of partnerships, no matter how small
2.     Communicate the database to everyone, irrespective of affiliation
3.     But to do the above (I almost said number 2) the municipality must know and have accurate knowledge of the citizens/inhabitants – so do this first
4.     Use the social and printed media to highlight the successful partnership arrangements,
5.     But invite the citizen in to participate…
6.     And keep on doing it…
7.     And the municipality should lead by example.

Sustainable development

The latest buzz word, perhaps, yes, but so difficult to do and even more difficult to implement. Tax payers’ monies at work, and tax payers therefore can have an opinion and can complain. A compliment is rare!

At the heart of the challenge of sustainable development is the understanding or lack thereof by communities and inhabitants. So coin 4 of 5 key measurements for the citizens to hold the municipality accountable. But be different, explain sustainable development to all the citizens because the problems to be addressed is long-term. Be different, and teach councillors what it is, and then start with the communities…
  • Understand and explain, what a municipality can do, and not do.  Be clear.  Be concise and be straight.
  • Do less, but ensure it is done properly.
  • Ensure that councillors and municipal staff (even service providers) understand service delivery.
  • Ensure that community engagements are properly managed.
  • Make sure the citizens are informed about the budget and target community leaders to inform them.
  • And stick to the plan, no matter how difficult.
  • Remember failures are remembered, successes are taken for granted…

Youth mobilisation

The biggest challenge in communities in South Africa remain jobs and the inability of young people to obtain employment. The challenge in Stellenbosch is the dispersed nature of the demands. Youth on farms are isolated by the nature of their locality, the youth in the suburbs are isolated by race and by socio-economic circumstances. And yes, the basic services remain the mandate of the municipality, but the tax base needs to grow.

So does one tackle youth unemployment and concomitantly the education (not only tertiary education)? Perhaps the basic endeavours should be a coordinated approach to the delivery of information of opportunities – and yes, it might have be done, but taking it to the next level requires inspiration by young role models and supporting adults…
  • A school indaba could work…
  • A municipal career programme involving all in the municipal boundaries…
  • A clear focus on the youth with the youth leading…
  • Commitment and support
  • But above all, businesses (small and big) setting a target for youth employment?


It is recognised that the municipality cannot do this through the ‘normal’ channels and so the boldest step or approach is to rethink the current structures and to realign it to signal a change in the way business will be done. What about a Youth Council? What about a platform for partnerships? And what about the redesign of access to opportunities?

Some examples:

1.     Street committees for greening
2.     Churches for organising food for the poor
3.     (Town) schools for sports development for the youth
4.     Academic institutions should reserve bursaries and ‘place’ for municipal based students.
5.     Support skills development initiatives – be upfront what is available…

Cultural diversity/Change management

Stellenbosch remains divided, with clear racial associations, and the ultimate challenge is to change the race-based settlements. But what to do, as the design of the past also creates social cohesion and support in time of need. So understanding the system of support and also the system of operations within the suburbs is imperative but how?

Attitudes and behaviours remain in place, and the perceptions are difficult to change, so perhaps the biggest dilemma is, is a process of engagements with different leaders from different race to engage on “who I’m”…

Cultural diversity creates the biggest opportunity to change the way we do business and yet, mistrust and perceptions are most difficult to overcome.

Ultimately, an innovative municipality is about confronting the status quo, and building an encompassing vision and maintaining the basic services. But a municipality consists of people, at different levels, different cultural traditions and different expectations, co-existing in the municipal boundaries. So the underlying processes and approaches must find resonance, and perhaps the question for the management of the municipality is ‘Do you understand who you work for?’

Joyene IsaacsJoyene Isaacs completed her schooling at Lückhoff Senior Secondary School in Stellenbosch in 1982 and then registered at the University of the Western Cape for a B Sc. degree with Plant Protection and Plant Pathology as majors. She continued with Plant Pathology as a major and completed the B Sc. Hon in 1986.

She worked for two different NGOS, in agricultural development, in three provinces from 1991 to 1996. She joined the Agricultural Research Council in 1996 at INFRUITEC as a centre co-ordinator for the resource-limited farmers’ programme.  The job entailed the management of a team from the Institute working with resource-limited farmers and the development of effective linkages with all role players to ensure an appropriate research agenda for fruit production and processing systems for the emerging sector in South Africa. In 1998, she was appointed as the assistant-director: Resource-limited Producers’ Programme, managing a bigger team and taking on the responsibility of both Infruitec and Nietvoorbij campuses.

She was appointed at the Department of Agriculture: Western Cape in 2002 as a Director of Farmer Settlement, and in 2004 as Chief Director: Farmer Support and Development. The key functions entailed the development of the emerging sector through land reform, infrastructure development, farm worker development, food security initiatives, capacity building of grass roots farming organisations, ensuring equity (internally and externally) and building innovative and strong partnerships. The programme grew substantially under her leadership i.e. the budget increased from R 7 million to R 70 million over four years and the staff from 7 staff members to about 180 staff members (technical and administrative).

In December 2005 she was appointed Acting Head of Department for the Department of Agriculture, managing more than 800 staff members through 7 programmes and giving effect to agricultural development in the Western Cape to the benefit of all. In March 2006, she was permanently appointed as the Head of the Department on a four-year contract, which ended in March 2010, and was extended to March 2015 and again renewed to 2020.

She has published and presented a range of publications, from scientific to development papers and attended various conferences, seminars and workshops where she facilitated and chaired different sessions. She served as chairs for many organisations i.e. President of the Southern and Eastern African Association for Farming Systems Research and Extension (14 African countries); NGOS and currently is the chair for the Wine Industry Transformation Committee.