When the ANC became the ruling party in SA politics, it had big-time debts, obligations, favours (call ‘em what you will) to repay many people and indeed, countries. One of the easiest ways to do so at local level was to create an inordinately cumbersome and (subsequently proven) short-on-delivery mechanism called provincial governments headed by ‘premiers’. Maybe the time has come to rein in the wannabe tin-pot despots at provincial level who flout the rules of etiquette and social governance.
A report in the Citizen of 19th April 2006 illustrates a distasteful example which may point to a deeper malaise. Limpopo premier Sello Moloto clearly believes that if he takes a leaf out of the diary of Thabo Mbeki, he might also one day rise to significant heights in SA politics. The Prez was notorious in his first term, for arriving late at events. To the extent that no less an eminence grise than Nelson Mandela upbraided him publicly for his tardiness on more than one occasion.
The issue with Moloto concerns national minister of Correctional Services, Ngconde Balfour’s recent visit to a Polokwane prison. To cut a long story short, Moloto has developed a reputation for being up to two hours late for functions and engagements. He kept Balfour waiting for so long that the latter had to re-schedule other appointments to keep his diary on track.
The disingenuous comment from Moloto’s spokesperson, one Lucky Nchabaleng, was that if Balfour is visiting Moloto’s province, Moloto ‘takes precedence’ (in political protocol hierarchy/status terms). Eish! His piece de resistance: ‘The premier may be late if he wants to, it is his province.’ It is? I thought he was a public servant reporting ultimately to we tax payers who pay his inflated salary? Would he also claim ‘precedence’ over President Mbeki one wonders? Mind you, if they were both late, their meeting would be quite well co-ordinated! ;-) More seriously this behaviour smacks of arrogance, insensitivity or disrespect. You choose. Whichever, it says clearly, ‘You don’t matter.’
It’s also the sort of ego-driven behaviour that minister of provincial and local government Sydney Mufamadi or President Mbeki should rein in – immediately.
Limpopo is not Moloto’s personal fiefdom. One of his aides describes him as ‘the last Stalinist’. Maybe he’s hoping to be embalmed (a la Lenin) in Polokwane town square one day? Stop him now.
If what Moloto’s spokesperson says genuinely reflects the attitude of this local politico, then something needs to be done pretty darned quickly. If (the salvation of most ‘provincial’ – lovely double entendre there – premiers) someone’s been ‘quoted out of context’ or there was (the Irwinism of 2006) ‘human instrumentality’ in the screw-up, then fire the damn spokesperson – or send him on a communications course.