Howard Feldman

OPINION: Did Mashaba have to resign, or did he just need a holiday?

2019-10-23 18:00
Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba. (Cornel van Heerden, Netwerk24)

Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba. (Cornel van Heerden, Netwerk24)

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It's not uncommon for a person to tell me that they want to resign from their jobs and look for a new business opportunity. As a business coach, my role is not only to guide them through this process, but also to help them determine if it's really a change of career that they need, or rather a darn good holiday. 

It is remarkable how often exhaustion results in us willing to throw it all away when the cure really is a few weeks of "R and R".

This is especially common this time of the year when people are "running on empty" and December is around the corner, but not quite here.

Despite statements to the contrary, I believe that the resignation of Herman Mashaba as mayor of Johannesburg might be viewed in this context.

Mashaba needs a break. He said so and he is looking forward to the down time.

This should not be a surprise. Being the mayor of a city like Johannesburg must be exhausting and thankless. The task is overwhelming and the criticism must be relentless. One must feel for the guy. No matter how much progress he and his team might have made, there will always be one pothole somewhere that will be used by a resident as proof that "nothing has changed". It must be soul destroying and very tiring.

To some extent, Mashaba's resignation echoes the attitude of a number of US celebrities who confidently announced that in the unlikely event of Donald Trump becoming president, they would immediately leave the country and take up residence in Canada or Australia. Anywhere where Trump would have little influence.

Although they did not follow through on their threat and have rightly been ridiculed for their empty promises, Mashaba was not willing to be perceived as someone who is not true to his word. Even if Helen Zille is hardly Trump.

And so, true to his promise, he resigned when he really should have gone on holiday.

It's a noble approach. Or, it would be, if keeping his word was the only measure. If we add the fact that his role as mayor is important to the residents of the city, and that they will be let down by his resignation, then the picture is not quite as praiseworthy.

Although he represented the DA, a party that has clearly disappointed him, what of the people of Johannesburg, who he undertook to serve? As a proud resident of his city, I was unaware that his position was so tenuous. Whereas of course I would expect him to step away should he encounter corruption of any sort, it is somewhat perplexing that he would do so after a democratic process undertaken by his party. It seems a little adolescent.

The other nagging issue is why he has such an issue with the democratic appointment of Zille? Whereas I am not at all a fan of the great Zille return, and believe that she could have kept away from the party, surely Mashaba could be a voice of opposition from within the party and didn't need to resign to make his point. Of all people, he already has access to as much media attention as desired.  

Unless he just needs a holiday.

Mashaba chose to resign when the Jacarandas are in bloom. He chose to leave our city when it is at its magnificent best. When the purple trees embrace our streets and form canopies of splendour. No one does that unless they are at their wits' end.

Unless they are in desperate need of a holiday.

Though I believe the residents of Johannesburg and the DA will suffer for this decision, it needs to be acknowledged that once again it is evident that South Africa is a robust democracy. No one is forced to tow the party line and individual freedoms and liberties can be closely weighed up against the collective need.

Just like the Jacarandas, that is something that we should all be proud of.

- Howard Feldman is a keynote speaker and analyst. He is the author of three books and is the morning talk show host on ChaiFM.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

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