Mpumelelo Mkhabela

The 'problem' politicians give columnists: How to choose who to write about?

2018-05-10 12:56
Natasha Mazzone. (Netwerk24)

Natasha Mazzone. (Netwerk24)

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It is difficult to write on current affairs. The difficulty lies not in the ability to write, but the choice of your subject. 

The choice signifies what you consider a priority. Admittedly, it's a value judgement, not devoid of risks. Often, after writing a piece, you are far from satisfied. It could have been better if one had chosen this or that angle on this or the other subject.

The sifting process can be more stressful and completely unmatched with the ease with which the product is consumed in the end. Yet, it can be therapeutic. It is a celebration of freedom of thought and expression – constitutional rights we should forever cherish.

Now, where is this going? Well, I have been agonising about what to write about this week. Supra Mahumapelo and his non-resignation? Natasha Mazzone and her "dark" dad? Bathabile Dlamini and her South African Social Security Agency scandal that won't go away? Patricia de Lille, the Pan Africanist who found herself on the wrong side of self-proclaimed liberals? This is the shortlist.

Thinking about which one to eventually tackle reminded me of Professor Njabulo Ndebele, who once described the difficulty of finding a way or connecting themes when faced with seemingly disparate issues. "Iph’indlela?" (literally translated, where is the way?) was the eventual title of his Steve Biko Memorial Lecture in 2000.

I would like to recommend the lecture to Mazzone and her colleagues, because it deals with the contribution whites can make to restore the dignity of black people. Ndebele referred to what the "white heart" needs to do to bring dignity to the violated "black body". It’s a powerful metaphor that the highly educated Mazzone would surely find easy to grasp.

Mazzone could also consider having coffee with De Lille. Imagine the two of them sharing experiences about the past. Mazzone talking about her "dark" dad and his personal struggles and De Lille talking about her own dad, whose complexion needs no description, and the struggle of the Africans against the systems and the structures of colonialism and apartheid.

Only good leaders know when time is up

Mazzone, with her youthful exuberance, could also elaborate on her modern version of liberalism. She could talk about how she found it to be the best political ideology, compared to nationalism, Marxism or Pan Africanism. She could tell De Lille that liberalism accommodates differences of personalities, leadership styles and various ideological perspectives. One wonders how De Lille could respond to that one.

Moving on to Mahumapelo, the North West premier who has decided to show President Cyril Ramaphosa the middle finger. The political turmoil in the province signifies the collapsed facade built by Mahumapelo to create the impression that the people of the province overwhelmingly supported the corrupt Jacob Zuma faction.

The rebellion on the ground clearly indicates that Mahumapelo has lived in a bubble of his making. Neither ordinary ANC members, nor the North West public, approved of his corruption with Zuma. Trying to cling onto elusive power when governance has collapsed under his watch is selfish. It serves, neither the interest of his organisation, nor the public. But only good leaders know when time is up.

Of all the domestic political issues of the moment, there is one that must be watched closely: the pending decision of the Constitutional Court on whether to punish former social development minister Bathabile Dlamini for the mess she presided over concerning the multimillion-rand social grant contract. This decision will be likely more significant than Nkandla or many other high-profile decisions that deal with good governance.

ConCourt has opportunity to deal with Dlamini once and for all

This is the case which, stripped of all its twists and turns, comes down to Constitutional Court vs Bathabile Dlamini. Under her watch, the Department of Social Development and Sassa failed to adhere to the court’s rulings. When she had the opportunity to explain herself in court, she lacked candour and her submissions were devoid of truth. She made the justices, our last hope in our constitutional democracy, look like fools.

Faced with the failure of a member of the executive branch of government to adhere to its judgments, and a Parliament that wouldn’t step in to reinforce the supremacy of the orders of the Constitutional Court, the judges were left with no option but to assume the oversight role that should have been played by Parliament, and the executive leadership role that should have been played by the president.

The condescending attitude of Louis Luyt, the conservative rugby supremo, towards the Constitutional Court many years ago pale into insignificance when one considers Dlamini’s conduct. Neither then-president Jacob Zuma nor Parliament was keen to hold her to account for failing to adhere to court judgments and for lying by omission.

There was no option. But now, the Constitutional Court has an opportunity, following the Judge Bernard Ngoepe Inquiry, which also found Dlamini evasive, to deal with her once and for all. 

Should the court give her a slap on the wrist, it would undermine its supremacy and set a precedent for future tyrannical executive conduct. However, if the Constitutional Court gives her the highest sanction possible, our faith in it and the justice system would no doubt be sustained.

- Mkhabela is a political analyst with the Department of Political Sciences at the University of South Africa.

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.

Read more on:    da  |  supra mahumapelo  |  natasha mazzone  |  patricia de ­lille  |  politics
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