Max du Preez

SA 'deserves better than Zuma's sycophants' clowning around'

2016-06-07 08:08

Max du Preez

Foreign minister Maite Nkoane-Mashabane’s interview with Al Jazeera last week severely tested my staying power. It was cringe worthy in the extreme and I kept on reaching for the remote.

South Africa has many weaknesses and shortcomings. But come on, we really deserve a better minister to represent us in the international community.

In the days just before the Al Jazeera interview I listened to several interviews with the outgoing deputy chief justice, Dikgang Moseneke.  I saw the minister of finance, Pravin Gordhan, in action. I read two opinion pieces by Free State University rector Jonathan Jansen. I listened to former Umkhonto we Sizwe general, then senior civil servant and now business man Mavuso Msimang.

What remarkable human capital we have, what a deep and rich pool of leadership, I thought.

And then I watched the Nkoane-Mashabane interview. It was a great opportunity for a South African government leader to state our case and break down prejudices against us via an influential international television news channel.

But not our minister. She focused on the entirely irrelevant fact that her interviewer happened to have been born in South Africa and got stuck on a refrain that she had a hole on her head because she had to carry water as a child. Her narrative and defensive belligerence would have been appropriate for a domestic pre-election television interview, but this was Al Jazeera and the interview went around the world. How embarrassing.

It is a political reality in all countries that a head of state sometimes appoints government leaders for other reasons – political support, representivity, etc – than simply merit. But in any functioning modern democracy there are limits to this.

Nkoane-Mashabane isn’t the only embarrassment in our Cabinet. Energy minister Tina Joemat-Petterson, communication minister Faith Muthambi, cooperative governance minister Des van Rooyen, police minister Nathi “Firepool” Nhleko and deputy minister of defence and military veterans Kebby Maphatsoe are no better. There is a much longer list of weak and/or compromised ministers and deputy ministers, like Mosebenzi Zwane (he wants to launch a state bank to rescue the Guptas, I saw on Bloomberg yesterday), Nomaindia Mfeketo (she just flattered the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad), Fikile Mbalula and Bathabile Dlmanini, but let’s stick to the main clowns.

A bigger clown you can’t get than Hlaudi Motsoeneng, chief operating officer at the SABC. Just yesterday he said during a radio interview that he didn’t believe in scientific research. Last week he declared that educated people read too much.

He is rapidly morphing more and more into an Idi Amin-like figure. If the SABC weren’t a precious national treasure and the primary source of information and knowledge to most South Africans, we could have had a good laugh.

Motsoeneng remains untouchable, and for only one reason: in the words of minister Muthambi, “Baba [president Jacob Zuma] loves him, he loves him so much. We must support him."

And that’s what all these clowns have in common: they are Zuma sycophants. He doesn’t really care whether any of them have enough talent to successfully flush a toilet, he’s only looking for blind loyalty and political protection.

And the ANC lets him. He outmanoeuvres all the reasonable men and women in the ANC leadership with his toxic mix of tribal politics, blackmail, patronage and the abuse of the state security apparatus. He is crude and kragdadig, but he is strategically brilliant.

It is significant that excellent ANC leadership is flourishing where Zuma’s influence is low. Like Gauteng.

Here are a few names of competent, talented provincial leaders in Gauteng; each one would have fared very well in the national Cabinet: Premier David Makhura, MEC for infrastructure Jacob Mamabolo, MEC for human settlements Paul Mashatile, MEC for finance Barbara Creecy, MEC for roads and transport Ismail Vadi and MEC for education Panyaza Lesufi. Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau is another excellent young leader.

There is no doubt that there is a huge reservoir of very talented leaders with exceptional track records inside the ANC that could be used to fill the spaces of the present duds.

The only problem is that not one of them is a Zuma sycophant.

The saying that a nation deserves the government it gets it clearly not true of South Africa.

- Follow Max on Twitter.

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Read more on:    anc  |  al jazeera  |  jacob zuma  |  maite nkoana-mashabane

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