HEROES come in capes but not this one – she comes adorned in a dress! She is none other than Dr Imogen Mashazi, the City Manager of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Council. Despite her powerful position the feisty, hard-working and self-driven Dr Mashazi has no airs and graces about her.
She has agreed to our interview, on-line via Microsoft Teams, but is quick to add that she is only giving us 10 minutes of her time as she has other matters to attend to.
“After all,” she adds, “I don’t like the media. Zweli (Dlamini) – Chief Specialist Media Relations and spokesperson in her office – will give you all the other things that he has written about me.”
However, twenty minutes later, the accommodative and very passionate Dr Mashazi is freely chatting away about her life. From her days as a nursing sister in Soweto, then her move to Ekurhuleni where she joined the city as deputy director health services and welfare.
She rose up the ranks by not only burning the midnight candle – today she holds a DLitt et Phil (Nursing Science) Degree – but has also made sure that she leaves footprints in the sand everywhere she has been.
So, it came as no surprise when last month (July 23rd) the Soweto born and bred mother of three, scooped the award for Public Sector Leader at this year’s first Virtual Top Empowerment Awards.
The City of Ekurhuleni won the award for Public Service category.
The awards, launched 19 years ago, celebrate the country’s leaders in transformation and empowerment.
The platform provides exposure among empowered industry players, honouring those who’ve displayed innovative leadership and made a significant impact on the communities in which they operate as well as society at large.
Both these achievements are no mean feat and Dr Mashazi is the first to acknowledge that.
“The strangest thing is that I was not even aware that I had been nominated until someone called to congratulate me. I had no clue what they were talking about and asked them to forward me the info,” she relates.
“The win came as a surprise to be honest. If it was not for my personal assistant (Linda Naicker) I would not have won. Linda decided to nominate me behind my back probably because she knew that I would have said no as I am media shy.”
“Nonetheless, I am quite excited for the fact that at least one is recognised for the type of work one is doing especially as a woman empowering other women.”
Ekurhuleni’s Head of Department: City Planning, Palesa Tsita, says the award couldn’t have gone to a more deserving candidate.
Tsita should know, after all, she is living proof of Dr Mashazi’s determination and drive to see more and more women empowered in the city.
Dr Mashazi appointed her to the position in June last year.
“What I love about her is that she is tough and decisive and is not threatened by women like her but instead embraces and mentors them to ensure that they reach their full potential,” says Tsita.
Naledi Modibedi, Head of Department Human Resources, concurs.
She, like Tsita, was appointed by Dr Mashazi into her position three years ago.
“What I love about the CM is that she is the kind of boss that will give you space to do your stuff. If you mess up though she will give it to you there and then. But, with her somehow you know that it is not personal.”
“She speaks her mind and moves on and has no time to be holding a grudge. She personifies professionalism and perfection and expects it from all around her,” she adds.
Under her leadership, from her days as Chief Operation Officer, the city has achieved an unqualified audit with a clean audit on financial statements;
- Zero unauthorised expenditure;
- Zero fruitless and wasteful expenditure;
- Irregular expenditure has decreased from R215 million in the previous financial year to R5 million in the 2018/19 financial year;
- Collection rate stood at 91 percent.
She is described by those who know her as a no-nonsense woman who knows her story and expects the same from those around her especially women.
Dr Mashazi is passionate about women empowerment and does not only talk the talk but she walks the talk.
In 2017, she was instrumental in introducing The Women in Uniform Community Safety Project, aimed at ensuring that more women are appointed into meaningful positions in the workplace hence the appointments of the likes of Tsita and Modibedi and many others.
She says: “Remember I’ve been in the system for 20 years and as I worked my way up the ranks from my days as executive director of health and social development, I noticed that it was mostly men who were appointed into the senior and decision making positions like your HODs and managers.
“So, when I was appointed City Manager in 2016, I told myself that I wanted to change the status quo.”
In 2017, she made it clear that her intention was to see female employees at EMPD and DEMS prosper academically and career-wise.
She explains that she did this because she understood that their field of work is male dominated and that despite them doing the same work with their male counterparts, they still have to double their efforts to be recognized.
“I did thisbecause as a woman I had experienced some of the things and decided that as the first female CM of the City, I have to do something. Gone are the days when women have to experience gender discrimination in society and the workplace. Together we must prove that we are equal to our male counterparts one way or the other,” she explains.
Dr Mashazi, a married mother of three, is a team player who always acknowledges the support of others whether be it at home or work.
She says when she took the decision to have female HODs in the city, the Council obliged and today nine of the city’s 23 HODs are female.
Meanwhile, more than 400 women have been absorbed as traffic wardens.
While in the area of disaster management, two new female divisional heads have been appointed and now more dominate the space with a figure of 110 females compared to 63 male counterparts.
“We’ve also witnessed great progress in promotions in the EMPD with a number of women occupying senior positions such as deputy director, chief superintendent, superintendents and inspectors. Quite a huge achievement I must add.
“All these appointments and promotions have seen a number of ladies prioritising their studies to enable themselves to be considered for senior positions. Today we are in the company of women with MBAs, Honours, BTech Degrees and Diplomas.
“We are now steadily moving into the Fourth Industrial Revolution and therefore we must equip ourselves with the necessary skills to navigate our way out of any situation that comes with this revolution. Who knows maybe among you we have someone who will invent the most innovative way to fight crime and deal with disasters,” she recently told guests at the city’s 20th anniversary of it becoming a conglomerate.
Asked if women can have it all, Dr Mashazi believes yes, but is quick to add, she needs all the support from her family.
She credits her husband of 30 years for the reason why she has been able to succeed at work.
“If it wasn’t for him I doubt I would have even been able to take up some of these positions like this one of City Manager because it is demanding and we spend hours at work.
She adds that in earlier days, when the kids were small – now the first born is 30 years while her set of twins is 23 years of age – her mother-in-law, who has since passed on, played a great role.
“My husband took the kids to school. I was blessed in the sense that I’ve never had to take time off to rush my kids to a doctor or something because my mother-in-law was there for me,” she adds.
Her parting words to women this women’s month is that they need to go to school and work hard so that the system can recognise their efforts.
“Your work must speak for you don’t wait to get favours from people. When I joined the system as a public servant, my aim was to change the lives of the people of Ekurhuleni and I believe I did that. From my days as the director of health to my current position, my work speaks for itself from our TB cure rate which was at its lowest but by the time I left it was sitting at about 89 percent. We were among the first to buy ARVs for our patients and built world-class clinics for our townships.
“As the city we have changed the life styles of our citizens and continue to do so. My passion to empower women all these things will be the legacy I leave behind.”