There’s a new sheriff in town at Home Affairs

2012-10-06 16:10

If Naledi Pandor was still education minister, she’d have driven a truck to Limpopo herself to deliver textbooks to schools.

In fact, that’s exactly what she told Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga to do, Pandor says, because it would be a good way to identify first-hand where the problems are.

“I can pretty much drive anything,” Pandor jokes when asked if she could drive a truck.

It isn’t difficult to believe this to be true of the tall 58-year-old woman with an open face and no-nonsense attitude.

The education department is one of the biggest, and Pandor’s experience as minister there between 2004 and 2009 will serve her well in her new portfolio at Home Affairs.

Still, she admits she’s “daunted” by her new position.

But she believes President Jacob Zuma appointed her there because he wanted someone “who is a bit stubborn, irritating and who will do what has to be done, and when it is time to say no (to corruption), will say no”.

For the past three years, Pandor has served in the much smaller portfolio of science and technology, where she led, on an international stage, South Africa’s successful bid to co-host the Square Kilometre Array telescope.

Pandor says her latest appointment was a surprise.

“I thought we were well into the term with regards to science and technology, and I wasn’t expecting change,” she says.

But she adds that she’s there to serve.

Pandor has big shoes to fill. She was appointed minister of Home Affairs this week after her predecessor, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, left for Addis Ababa earlier this month to become African Union Commission chairperson.

Pandor has already started reading the department’s annual reports, and although Dlamini-Zuma has done a lot to root out corruption and improve the issuing of documentation (Pandor says she always applies for her identity documents and passport in person), the new minister believes the technology in the department could improve.

“Some people have been complaining about the paper processes,” she says.

If records were digitised, the process would be organised in a more efficient manner, she says.

Her desk in her new “posh offices” on Pretoria’s Arcadia Street, where she moved in on Friday, is still neat – uncharact-eristically so, she says.

A copy of Mamphela Ramphele’s latest book, Conversations with my Sons and Daughters, is among the few papers scattered on the desk of this granddaughter of respected anti-apartheid teacher ZK Matthews.

On a chest of drawers underneath portraits of Zuma, Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and an open space where hers will soon hang, is a bunch of fresh pink flowers sent to her by Communications Minister Dina Pule.

Pandor, who kept on an even keel when then ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema slammed her “fake American accent” in 2009, says she prefers to focus on her job rather than get involved in pre-Mangaung squabbles.

“We should focus on what our reason for existence is. The Constitution is reassuring people they will have a better life.”

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