Avril Halstead

Chief director: National Treasury

You can't miss Avril Halstead in a crowd. Her curly red hair and bright smile make her seem a long way away from the hard-nosed treasury official she is. At 34, Halstead is chief director in the department that keeps South Africa solvent, which means she is only two steps below the director general of the treasury. She is responsible for arranging the financing of South Africa's state-owned enterprises, including Eskom. When South Africa was in the dark about where the electricity utility would get the money to bail us out of a lifetime of load- shedding, Halstead was crunching the numbers behind the scenes. And now it seems Eskom will be able to sort out its own woes, without help from the public purse. The former Zimbabwean left her country of birth at the age of six and grew up in Howick, KwaZulu-Natal. Her academic career took her through several universities, including City University London, where she completed a master's degree in organisational consulting. Halstead defies the image of a typical government official. Perhaps because she has worked at international companies such as McKinsey and esteemed organisations such as the Nelson Mandela Foundation and Old Mutual she does not see government as a place where clever people come to take it easy, and considers her 11-hour workdays as necessary to the provision of better service. Whereas most government departments are rife with infighting and political tugs of war, the treasury is a well- run, mostly apolitical institution where you don't need to show a ruling-party membership card to get ahead. But Halstead is not all work, no play. She is the former 1 500m South African track champion and still runs for recreation and sometimes competitively. She was selected by the World Economic Forum as a Young Global Leader and is a trustee of the National Empowerment Fund.�Mandy Rossouw

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