The idea for Mmabana was conceived subsequent to a trip by a delegation from the erstwhile Bophuthatswana homeland to Israel. They were highly impressed by the all-arts-under-one-roof concept they had seen in Kfar Saba, 40km north of Tel Aviv. Upon their return from Israel, the legislature was asked to approve funding for a cultural project. Subsequently, a grant was made available and this led to the establishment of the Mmabana Foundation in 1986, with the current Chief Executive Officer of the National Arts Council, Ms Rosemary Mangope as the founding Executive Director.
The institution was solely developmental, meaning, after individuals’ talents were tapped, nurtured and promoted, Mmabana students proceeded to the then Arts Council to be trained further as professionals at the varied companies/departments such as drama, music and dance companies that existed at that time.
The advent of the new dispensation meant restructuring and realignment. Mmabana like many other pre-democracy organisations across the land, underwent the same process and an adjustment in the initial objectives to meet the expectations and plans of the new government. The biggest and most notable changes were budget limitations, staffing and its presumed duplications of services with Arts Council.
In 2000, the act of merging these two institutions was passed and the new institution called Mmabana Arts, Culture and Sports Foundation was born. “With the merger came the challenges which, to some extent, resulted in the new entity relying on the legacy of the two former entities’ policies,” explains Nkese.
To address these challenges, the executive team, with the contribution of all staff members at all levels, developed certain strategies:
- The Entity Turnaround and Change Management Strategy
- Revenue Growth and Protection Strategy
- Human Resources/Capital Plan and Strategy
- A detailed Strategies Implementation Plan (WIP)
“As a second layer, all the regions (core) and divisions (support) are in the process of developing regional and divisional strategies, which will clearly define how the overall entity strategies are to be supported by the regions and divisions,” says Nkese. “Unfortunately, the organisation comes from a unique history, which, at times negatively affects the present,” says Sipho Nkese, Acting CEO.
Other challenges include the ageing infrastructure, which was unmaintained to such an extent, some of our buildings are not comfortably habitable.
The strategies will be followed by extensive communication to all levels of the entity, and then by performance contracting, commencing at the executive level.
“We believe that, through these interventions, as well as other critical ones, which include “rebranding, repositioning and renewal”, optimal resource mobilisation and capacity building, the potential of the entity to turn itself around and be self-sustainable in the near future (3 to 5 years) will be realised and sustained,” he says.
Nkese believes the entity has enormous untapped potential, which could make a tremendous difference in the lives of the North West Province’s population. It also has the potential to be self-sustainable and, thereby, reduce reliance on state resources, which are needed for other deserving needs of the province.
Their goals include:
- Being self-sustainable financially in the next 3 to 5 years
- Contributing to, among others, job creation and poverty alleviation
- Being recognised as a beacon of hope by all their stakeholders
- Making an immense contribution to all efforts aimed at addressing the current social ills of drug and alcohol abuse
Ultimately, their vision is to be recognised as a leading institution in the development of arts, sports, and culture, rising to the level of the “National Academy of South Africa”.
“We are also looking at reviving some of our old programmes and expanding our offering by venturing into new programmes,” adds Nkese.
In terms of exciting projects on the horizon, industrialisation aspirations are at the top of their list. “This will be done in such a manner that it benefits communities in deep rural areas of our province,” he says.
When it comes to communities’ responses to Mmabana’s facilities and programmes, Nkese says that, while people are not entirely happy with the current status quo, the experience that they’ve had with those they have engaged with is that the entity has the communities’ support.
”From the participant’s statistics point of view, it is evident that Mmabana is benefitting the local community. The community is showing interest in what Mmabana is doing. Our sales tell all about the support from the community,” he says.
Mmabana is a schedule 3C organisation under the North West Department of Culture, Arts and Traditional Affairs (CATA), which is their key stakeholder. The Office of the Premier is also a critical partner as a custodian in governance in Bokone Bophirima. Other stakeholders include other State-Owned Entities (SOEs), such as the North West Development Corporation (NWDC) and the Housing Corporation and the NW Gambling Board. External partners include the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), financial institutions and institutions of higher learning. Their relationships with NW House of Traditional Leaders as well as all the tribal councils, individual dikgosi and municipalities are also critical. The stakeholder relations extend to organised labour (unions), organised artistic groupings and individual artists.
In terms of providing their services as well as taking the needs of their stakeholders into account, Nkese explains that the main challenges faced include the need to speed-up their accreditation project, which will enable them to attract more students, external funding and paying customers.
“Our facilities need to be upgraded to be compliant and comfortable for our clients/students. Our fees policy is being reviewed as our current fee structure is too low and not cost reflective.
“The broader economic challenges facing the entire world, South Africa and our province have meant that we have to quickly learn to “do more with less”. Our strategy also includes new programmes, which are aimed at growing our revenue base,” he says.
Although their current challenges limit their ability to effectively compete in the war for talent space, it is their view that they have sufficient numbers of suitably qualified staff/trainers within the province. “We don’t have any intentions of complete reliance on the open market, we believe in the principle of ‘growing your own timber’.
“I always share the message that MACSF is in the business of ‘selling knowledge and a good feeling’. Whether it is our music, dance, artistic sports and creative arts offering, our business is to impart knowledge and good feelings.
“When we can influence thinking, behaviour and contribute to a positive life and future. That is sufficient to give me a good night’s sleep,” says Nkese.
Sipho Nkese is a leader’s leader, who firmly believes that all people involved, from the staff members and stakeholders to members of the community, have a valuable contribution to make. “There is nothing that can substitute “listening” to all the voices,” he says.
He describes his leadership style as unconventional, saying that “in an environment that requires transformation to be the order of the day, it does necessitate a degree of different styles of leadership, which may not exclude other mainstream leadership styles of ‘inclusive management’ and a bit of hard-nosed direction giving, and assurance to mitigate the natural fear factor that always accompanies change,” he concludes.
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