Editor's note: What a week it has been. Many thanks

2013-03-17 10:00

Amea culpa and a huge thank you. It’s my view that Public Service and Administration Minister Lindiwe Sisulu is biting the bullet on reform like no minister before her. Unless we don’t fix the civil service, we won’t fix the nation.

The sector requires leadership and Sisulu is showing it, so I asked political reporter Carien du Plessis to profile her. The interview was meant to be in Pretoria, but happened in Cape Town. To get us there fast, the department used its Voyager miles. Kind as it was, we should not have accepted the offer.

I will pay a fee to a charity of the department’s choice.

» A thank you. We tried to send individual thank yous for every kindness, tribute and condolence paid to us on the loss of our colleague, Mandy Rossouw.

But, as is the South African way, there was an outpouring. Please accept this thank you from all of us and from Mandy’s family for making a difficult week a little less trying, for we felt our loss to be shared. Media24 will name an internal award for political reporting after Mandy.

We will also award a fellowship to study at the BBC college in her name. The details will be made public as soon as we have established criteria and decided on dates.

This week, in honouring Mandy’s work, her friend Eusebius McKaiser said something profound.

In all the tributes paid to her, her work was honoured as much as her method. She is described repeatedly as “fair”, “humorous”, “someone you could talk to”.

McKaiser said her passing had given him cause to pause and think about the constantly adversarial journalism most of us practice.

She established relationships and never forgot that all subjects are human beings first.

I, too, will ponder this in the months ahead. John Lloyd has written an excellent book on the state of political reporting in the UK, titled What The Media Are Doing to Our Politics. He finds it lacks a public ethos because the journalism is stuck in a “gotcha” mode of exposé, with very little elucidation of process and policy.

Of course, I will admit to no similarities here, but for a few years now, we have sought (with chequered success) to ensure we give as much space to policy development and reform as we do to exposés.

Investigative journalism is vital. How else would we have known about the corrosive impact of the arms deal on our baby democracy, or the conniving ways of Italian-South African mafiosi on South African cops, or of how former ANC Youth League president Julius Malema paid for his Breitling watches?

And we wouldn’t have known about the blowing of more than R200?million on the president’s private estate. But we also try to talk about people and policy through interviews and developments like our Tatane Project, a look at what happens when the protests end. It is named after Andries Tatane, the activist mowed down by police in televised horror. That sort of horror is now common. It’s scary.

» There’s a fascinating debate on a minimum wage being run on various opinion pages. Cosatu is putting the finishing touches on research to lobby for a minimum wage. In court, the business guru Herman Mashaba is fighting against inflexible pay scales, arguing he would never have been able to start Black Like Me if such conditions had been in place.

Politician Pallo Jordan says lobbyists for low and flexible wages seek to remove the one tangible manifestation of black empowerment – the betterment of urban black working class people through revolutionary unionism. Higher minimum wages mean more spending, Jordan argues.

»While I have profound respect for Dr Mamphela Ramphele and wish her every success at Agang SA, I thought her “revelation” that Gold Fields had been forced to accept a dodgy BEE partner in Invictus Gold to be odd.

After all, she was on the board when the deal was signed and had the power to stand up to political bullying and to exercise due diligence over a deal that is looking, in hindsight, to have been scrappy and cynical in its construction.

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