Dear Commander in Chief Julius Malema
In October 2017 Jonathan Ball published a book by Crispian Olver, a former government employee and ANC cadre, who headed up a regional task team in Port Elizabeth, set up by Pravin Gordhan, with the intention of eradicating fraud and corruption in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality. The damning data in the book offers descriptions of dealings by prominent individuals in prevalent scandals, at various levels of involvement.
It looks like the ANC did want to clean up the city but their intervention and strategy did not produce the desired outcome. This is because of entrenched factionalism, disrespect for the people and the corruption in the leadership that continued to pull the organisation apart.
When the metro was taken over by a coalition government of the DA and Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) in 2016, I knew that the days of corruption would be over and a new era would begin. I was exhilarated, especially after realising that it would be headed by Athol Trollip, a man often accused of racism by his critics.
I don’t know if Trollip is a racist or not but I do know that he is one of the few white leaders who speaks a native language effortlessly. I am yet to meet an ANC political leader who has made an effort to learn any of our languages. The learning of another language creates more positive attitudes and lessens prejudice towards the people. It also enables the learner to gain profound understanding of the people’s culture.
Trollip’s ability to speak isiXhosa makes his communication with his constituency easier and more pleasant. Not even the blackest leaders achieve this. The learning of other people’s languages encourages respect for them, making the learner more flexible and tolerant. So, I don’t know if Trollip is a racist or not, but I do know that learning another’s language, a native language in this case, leads the learner out of confinement and narrowness.
I’m impressed by Trollip’s courage to have conquered his fear of making mistakes when speaking isiXhosa imperfectly at first. Many lack that sort of courage, yet, especially for someone who had a choice, he still showed interest in a culture that his own view as secondary to theirs. No white person had to learn a native language, but they forced us to learn theirs.
It is in this kind of fearlessness and audacity that I knew for sure that Trollip was a great man for the job at the Nelson Mandela metro, a city faced with corrupt officials, politicians and service providers. I had no doubt he would not be intimidated by any of them. I was correct – in no time after he took over, several contracts in the bay had been frozen and a number of officials suspended without fear or favour.
I’ve heard other alliance partners complain about Trollip’s arrogance, hence they call for his removal. I write to inform you that if indeed he is arrogant, one shouldn’t complain. His arrogance is what will aid the city and the shady operations it has suffered from. Trollip’s egotism is attached to sheer determination to fix the day-to-day operations of the metro.
We have heard of how authoritative and tactically positioned city officials were under the ANC government in the city, positioned to assist the corruption tasks. It is interesting to see how Trollip is responding to all the filth with the arrogance it deserves. If he is indeed arrogant, the city has the right man for the job.
We must remember that Trollip’s job in particular is not for the faint-hearted and fearful, considering that many in the city had been captured.
Leaving it with some intimidated councillors who had refused to be part of the corrupt system, some were even murdered for confronting venality. This level of cancer needs someone arrogant to deal with those who think they can interfere or practise any wrongdoing.
Nelson Mandela Bay is a gang-state full of thugs. No cowardly individual can do this job. Surely, there had been threats and perhaps people tailing Trollip. I have no doubt he is alert to this danger. Yet, surprisingly, on many occasions I bumped into him at malls walking freely with his wife. The man is not shaken like others have been, whispering and looking over their shoulders.
Let Trollip’s arrogance deal with the web of lies, political syndicates, sick administrative machinery, and sophisticated and ongoing corruption that has infected the bay. He is not only arrogant but a principled and hardworking man – arrogance has never looked so good.
My leader, leading a metro is more than rejecting an offer of millions of rands and a ministerial position by the Guptas. Mcebisi Jonas is not suitable for this task. Before he became a hero and a sweetheart, he was part of the cancer of corruption in the province, which led to his suspension and resignation as the Eastern Cape Development Corporation chief executive, after being arrested by the Serious Economic Crimes Unit for fraud.
- Gcilishe is an activist and columnist