From Diploma to Master’s: Stephen Khumalo’s story in the civil service

28 May 2024

Stephen Khumalo joined the civil service in 1990, as a Diploma holder. After 34 years of service, he now holds a Master’s Degree in Parasitology as well as the title of Principal Environmental Health Officer with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. In this week’s civil servants’ blog, Khumalo shares about his journey in public service.

Government Communication (GC): “When did you join the Civil Service?”

Stephen Khumalo (SK): “I joined The Civil Service on September 10, 1990. My initial position was that of Health Inspector in the Ministry of Health.”

GC: “What is your current job now and what does it entail?”

SK: “My current job is that of Principal Environmental Health Officer with the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. This is a single tone post that was established to cater for environment and public health matters affecting Urban Local Government. The job entails representing the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in all environment and public health matters as may be guided by the Ministry of Health; Ministry of Agriculture; Ministry of Tourism and Environmental Affairs and that of Natural Resources and Energy. In the Ministry, I also apply the Provisions of the Public Health Act, Cemetery Act of 1970 and The Animal Pounds Act of 1966.”

GC: “Before this role, what other positions did you occupy in the Service?”

SK: “Before my current position I was a Health Inspector in the Hhohho Region within the Ministry of Health from September 1990 to October 1995. I was then transferred on promotion to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development in October 1995 where I was stationed at the headquarters as Senior Health Inspector. With reforms in the Environmental Health Sector, this role was then upgraded in August 2010 to Principal Environmental Health Officer, a position I hold to date.”

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

SK: “Among my biggest highlights/ achievements have been the opportunity to serve as Chief Executive Officer/Town Clerk, albeit on acting capacity for the Municipalities of Pigg’s Peak in 1998, Ezulwini in 2000 and Ngwenya Town Board in 2014, where I was in charge of all administrative functions of these urban local governments. The other one is that of being appointed by the Honourable Minister to be the first Chairperson of the then Malkerns Town Board in 2013 and later, Vice Chairperson of the Matsapha Town Council in 2018.”

GC: “What is the biggest project that you have been involved in working for Government?”

SK: “There are a number of major projects where I have played significant roles such as serving in technical committees during the development of the Maguga Dam development; the formulation of the National Forest Policy; the development of the first Solid Waste Management Strategy in 2000; the development of the Environment Management Act of 2002; and the procurement of basic solid waste management equipment for the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development worth E11.2 million through financial assistance from the Republic of China on Taiwan in 2016. I’ve also had the honour of serving in several committees of technical experts for Environment and Occupational Safety and Health at different intervals.”

GC: “What do you love the most about working in Government?”

SK: “Working for central Government has been one of the most fulfilling moments in my life in that I have been able to be part of national policy formulation and guidance, essential service provision as well as opportunities to augment provisional capacity through local and international training. I joined the civil service with a basic diploma in Health Inspection but through Government, I have acquired an additional Diploma in Sanitary Engineering from the University of Mauritius, a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Health Management from the University of Swaziland and later on, a Master’s Degree in Parasitology. I have also travelled to a number of countries worldwide to participate in international meetings, conferences and training.”

GC: “What do you love the most about your job and profession?”

SK: “This job is strategic to the provision of preventive medicine and public safety. The profession emphasises the importance of environmental safety and public health. It is versatile and remains relevant at all times, from initial initiatives to public health to the current phenomena of global warming and climate change. The profession is very rich in diverse skills from public health, port health, infrastructure development, disaster preparedness, vector control, environment management, water and sanitation. One can develop many other skills and professions with this background.”

GC: “What would you say are some of the challenges that come with your job?”

SK: “Some of the challenges are that this profession is one of the least understood in the civil service and thus it is less incentivised and resourced. This is evidenced by the nominal opportunities availed to members of the profession in national initiatives to drive strategic institutional, policy and economic development.”

GC: “What lessons have you learnt working for Government?”

SK: “Working for Government has taught me to appreciate working with a varied range of stakeholders at different levels thus enhancing my interpersonal skills. From this experience, I am now able to relate with people at all levels.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to work for Government?”

SK: “I would advise that he/she put first serving the country before the aspiration to enrich oneself. One should be patient in serving the public and rewards then come automatically with honesty and consistent, efficient service delivery. My peers in the profession are already in the apex leadership in the private sector but I have remained within the civil service as a motivated and loyal servant.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?”

SK: “My aspirations for the future in Government, like any other servant, is obviously to get the opportunity to serve at the highest level in order to drive and influence national strategy and sectoral policy development. This could be at both the civil service and/ or legislature.”


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