“The future of SMMS is bright,” so says Dr Phumla Mnganga, Chairperson of the newly constituted SMMS Board of Directors.

Dr Mnganga was setting out her vision for the institution in a wide-ranging interview.

The former Chairperson of the Governing Council of the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) said financial sustainability is a top priority of her Board.

“By financial sustainability we mean diversifying the income streams of this institution significantly. You cannot run an institution that is consistently assisted by the Methodist Connexional Office (MCO). It is fine that the MCO can assist but the institution must also stand on its own in terms of its financial robustness. It is not an overnight thing. It takes time. For a board to have an impact, we are looking at a five-year period. But I have no doubt that we will achieve financial sustainability.

“In the last five years at UKZN before the Fees Must Fall campaign, my legacy was increasing fees by double digits every year. It was very clear to me that at some point we were not going to be able to do it. What we did was to build reserves so that the university would remain financially stable. Apart from all the gossip, the university is reasonably financially stable,” she said.

She paid tribute to her colleagues on the Board and said they are all raring to go.

“I said to the Board if you cannot contribute, do not be on the Board. I cannot be part of a structure that just runs from meeting to meeting. We must have the capacity to make a difference. To me mediocrity is not negotiable; it is not an option. My job as Chairperson is to understand each member and what they bring and I am beginning to understand and nurture that. Changing institutions for better is something that takes time and it is not an easy process,” she said.

Dr Mnganga emphasised the need for quality academic and formation programmes as a good starting point for financial sustainability.

She said, “We need to ensure that our programmes are of high quality and we need to increase their number. SMMS should be seen as an institution of high academic standing, an institution that has very strong academic standards. To me that is actually the biggest contributor to financial sustainability. When anybody says they want a programme, say on ministerial formation, leadership ethics or transformational leadership, whether as a short or long course, whatever it is, they must go to SMMS. That will on its own contribute to financial sustainability.

“I think we have a strong base in what we are offering currently, and what we have achieved in the past ten years is actually great if we can intensify it. I just do not look at finance in terms of numbers but in terms of making sure that your core purpose is excellent. I also see SMMS staff featuring in research and that is absolutely fantastic.”

As a parting shot, Dr Mnganga said: “To lead the SMMS Board and to serve the Methodist Church in this manner is an honour and a privilege. I consider myself blessed to have the opportunity to make a contribution. It is a choice that I made independently. I feel that I have the experience, the resources, the desire and commitment to contribute to this institution, and it is exciting.”