When doublespeak reigns

2012-04-19 08:38

It struck me this week how Princess Anne, daughter of Queen Elizabeth II and sister to prince Charles, refers to her mother as Her Majesty the Queen.

I’m sure my own mother and maybe my boss would love for me to call them that, and to be honest they actually do deserve the title because they do majestical things with what they’ve got.

At the Royal Garden Party held in Pretoria this week we were given a brief rundown on the protocol of the event : The Princess Royal will answer no questions. When she comes over to say howzit, you only speak when spoken to. And, for heaven’s sake, don’t say anything controversial.

That’s when it dawned on me – our politicians, at least some of them, want to be treated like royalty. Being in an elected position is like being anointed to them. They think they rule by decree and no-one dares to say a word about it. We as subjects only speak when spoken to.

Look at the recent spat between Reuel Khoza and the ANC. Doublespeak reigned, where the ANC at the same time says business can say what they want but on the other hand they must watch their mouths.

We had gotten used to this in the past few years, with the debate around the Secrecy Bill being the most prominent – the ANC claims it protects freedom of speech but will punish those who dare to expose secrets, even if it is to hold those elected accountable.

The master of doublespeak, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe, took centre stage in Business Day on Tuesday when he said: “[Business] must be aware of the sensitivities, and the impact of what you say considering the very competitive business environment." He added “reckless and unbalanced” complaints could drive investors away.

Pity he wasn’t as bold when expelled ANC youth leader Julius Malema said mines must be nationalised without compensation. And sommer banks and land as well. Should Malema not have been warned of the “sensitivities” of his comments and did they not also drive investors away?

I don’t blame the British officials for all the fuss about protocol, that’s their job and managing a princess is not easy – as Theunis Crouse has discovered the hard way.

But being elected to a top position in the ANC or government does not amount to ascension to a royal throne, even if all the perks and privileges may make it look that way. The ruling party’s refusal to become a political party lies at the heart of this, because even a ruling party might lose power. A liberation movement never does. At least that’s how the flawed thinking goes.

When business leader like Reuel Khoza says the things he does, it is vital for the ANC to come and show us why he’s wrong. And if it is not that simple, commit to doing a better job.


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