Profile: Erwin Schwella

“People who say it cannot be done, should not interrupt those who are doing it” ― Bernard Shaw
Vision, inspiration, resilience, courage, dedication and discipline.  
Erwin Schwella grew up in South Africa during the years of apartheid. As a white South African he benefited from the spoils of this system. His parents were first generation urbanised Afrikaner people and his father worked very hard as an artisan and a committed trade unionist on the railways while his mother, an assistant nurse, mostly cared for him and his two brothers in their lower middle-class home.  

The values in his parental house were very much about the importance of work and the need to get the best education possible. After completing his school leaving secondary school qualification in a suburban school, he was conscripted into the South African Army. He did junior leader training in the Infantry and eventually became an instructor and officer in the Infantry.  

After a year of compulsory National Service as infantry junior leader he started his studies at Stellenbosch University in the early seventies. There he completed degrees in law, sociology, public administration culminating in a PhD degree in which he analysed the role of the media in the (lack) of public accountability in South African governance under apartheid. After a short spell of working in local and central government he joined the staff of the University of Stellenbosch as a junior lecturer in 1981.  

During the 1980’s he came under the impression of the real consequences of apartheid and became an academic and activist critic of this system. He was part of the academic rebellion at Stellenbosch which contributed to the start of negotiations about the post-apartheid South Africa after the De Klerk speech on the 2nd of February 1990 in which the ANC was unbanned.  

During the 1990’s he took part in the shaping of the new South Africa inside and outside South Africa forging new values, relationships and institutions for South African governance. In the meantime he was promoted through the academic ranks to become a full professor at Stellenbosch in 1992. He is currently the Professor of Public Leadership at this University.  

He served and still serves as an advisor to all spheres of South African governance and has consulted to international and national executives and governance institutions.  

Erwin Schwella is passionate about service delivery and hates bullies. He is driven by a search for justice and equity. This means that he is often involved in debates and interventions with service delivery institutions when they do not perform. Erwin also makes a point of giving credit for good and professional service.  

By nature he gets involved in entrepreneurial and innovative activities. He enjoys starting projects, working in networks and building institutions. He loves good wine and good food and travelling to find these in exquisite settings in his own and other countries. Erwin Schwella also firmly believes in the faith based golden rule of doing unto others as you want done unto yourself
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