Guest Column

Mmusi finds it hard to talk the talk

2015-07-01 17:22

Muhammad Noormahomed

The “Obama of Soweto” Mmusi Maimane was found lacking, his answers not quite as eloquent as usual as he faced the abrasive style of BBC HardTalk interviewer Zeinab Badawi.

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula took to Twitter to mock Maimane, saying he was exposed as a man “suffering from poverty of politics”.

Was Mbalula just being his usual “Razzmatazz” self or did Maimane really get roasted?

For starters, Maimane gets a point for not losing his cool. HardTalk interviews are notorious for tough questions and interviewers put their guests under immense pressure, often interrupting answers to fire follow-up questions, so Maimane did well not to snap back.

And some of his answers were not bad. But they weren’t reassuring either. For the first half of the interview, he was calm as he answered questions like how he was going to win over voters and he spoke about the economy, privatisation and creating jobs.

One of his more quotable lines early on in the interview was troubling though: “I am in some ways the story of what I’d like to see for every child – that, from a poor background, if you work hard you can achieve the outcomes that South Africans are able to achieve.”

It sounded awfully like Maimane was saying hard work was the reason poor South Africans are unable to rise out of poverty.

He also said much of what he has said before – such as the DA’s views on black economic empowerment being too narrow and benefiting only a few.

Maimane even answered some of the trickier, controversial questions like: “Are you a Mr Nobody now trying to become a Mr Somebody?” And whether he was “just a black face leading a white party”.

He attributed this to the racial past – in other words, apartheid. Of course, the ANC was to blame for trying to paint him as a black puppet.

When Bedawi said the ANC was not a party with just blacks, Maimane attributed this to Nelson Mandela.

When she pointed out that Rob Davies was the current minister of trade and industry, Maimane responded: “The ANC has departed from a nonracial point of view.” He added that the ANC could not tolerate black people in other parties, which was why he was being called a puppet.

When the topic turned to the Marikana commission and then Nkandla and the saga surrounding Omar al-Bashir, Maimane began fumbling like someone with too many apples in his basket, unsure of which one to take a bite off first.

It became a tug-of-war between Bedawi who said Public Protector Thuli Madonsela found that Zuma “benefited unduly”, which is not the same as saying Zuma was corrupt.

Maimane said he went to Nkandla to lay charges of corruption against Zuma and then digressed by saying Zuma undermined the Public Protector, reducing the powers of that office. His failure to properly answer on Nkandla was probably where Maimane scored lowest in the interview.

Nkandla was a topic which the DA had drummed on about – with good reason – so you’d expect Maimane to be a lot more coherent in spite of Bedawi’s badgering. It was from this point that Bedawi made Maimane sweat, brushing aside his ramblings about Bashir and the ANC’s failure to comply with a court order.

Bedawi also repeatedly referred to the commissions of inquiry – for Marikana, Riah Phiyega and Nkandla officials – which Maimane disregarded.

Maimane’s profile has been rising since he became the leader of the opposition. But in hindsight, going on HardTalk might have done more damage than good to his reputation.

Would an undecided voter choose to vote for the DA based on Maimane’s interview? Definitely not.

Talk to us: How did you think the interview went for Mmusi Maimane?

Read more on:    mmusi maimane  |  marikana

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