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17 September 2021. The Social Housing Regulatory Authority (SHRA) is a state institution proudly run by a strong female leader; someone who is fostering leadership skills in the organisation, while ensuring that social housing initiatives are executed with care and quality in mind. The SHRA is an agency the Department of Human Settlements run by Acting CEO, Mpolai Nkopane.
Acting SHRA CEO, Mpolai Nkopane
In discussion with Nkopane about her role as a female leader and mentor within a public entity, she states that one of her goals is to foster a culture of leadership and accountability, which creates credibility for the SHRA and the people who work there. “We are honoured in our position to help create homes for South Africa, and there is a world of good we can do. My vision is to foster the support of professional and accountable people within our organisation, who can lead our initiatives to success with the best use of our resources.”
Nkopane has a wealth of experience in ensuring that grants go to good use. She started her career in rural development, where she loved seeing the clear and immediate improvements to the lives of beneficiaries – made possible through international and local grants which she was charged with overseeing. “This is not so different to where I am today, where we arrive at a vacant field and in 12 to 24 months, we are able to provide families with incredible homes.”
Making a difference
From rural development, to working for municipal owned social housing institutions, to consulting on Johannesburg’s inner-city development, Nkopane thrives on making a difference. “I was a Girl Guide as a child and early on, I knew that whatever I do in my life, I must be helping other people.” Today, she leads the SHRA and inspires her colleagues to serve with integrity. “I was asked the other day, ‘What kind of leader do you want to be?’ I want to be a leader who empowers others. Practically speaking, this means mentorship and guidance for our young women in the workplace. We need to foster an environment for growth – spend more time caring for, mentoring and nurturing our younger colleagues.” She said that this is especially important in the context of boardroom bullying. “When I see bullying, I ask myself how the most junior person in the company might react. Not every woman has the confidence to take on such intimidating behaviour – and they actually shouldn’t have to. But until culture changes, my advice to women is to stand firm in who you are, know yourself, and do not let yourself be swayed”.
Putting in the time
Nkopane believes that women lead differently to men. “We sometimes choose to focus our attention on making subtle changes – but these are often the changes which make the most impact when given time. Placing emphasis on accountability and integrity in small day-to-day actions is the start of creating a high-performing public entity which people are proud to work for in the long run.”Good things take time, says Nkopane. “Patience is very important. I see young women entering the workforce in a rush to get to the top. This is where mentorship comes in once again. More experienced professionals like myself need to help steady our young people. This doesn’t mean they have to slow down – a fast-pace works for some people. But too fast, and you might fall. As leaders, we must facilitate the next generation. In the context on the SHRA, achieving my goals as a mentor and leader means passing on my dedication to serving our beneficiaries, and ensuring that social housing developments proceed with transparency to meet success.”In her role as a leader, Nkopane also aims to educate her team about fraud and corruption. “We need to drive greater understanding of fraud. People think corruption is when you steal a billion Rand. This is not the case – it starts with something as small as sharing a bit of confidential information. Young people entering our workforce must be made aware of this slippery slope, and be instilled with a good sense of ethics. Again, mentorship here is key.”
The SHRA enables, regulates and drives investment into the social housing sector, bringing together all the necessary role-players who work towards this common goal. “Acting accountably and credibly means we are better able to meet our mandate and help house South Africa’s people – affordably and sustainably,” concludes Nkopane.