When a pub­lic ser­vant taunts the tax­pay­ers

The Star (Kenya) - - Sasa - BY MWANGI G @MwangiGithahu

The adage about power tend­ing to cor­rupt has been play­ing out in South Africa in a very in­ter­est­ing way. For once, the main player is not a politi­cian, though he ap­pears to have very pow­er­ful po­lit­i­cal god­fa­thers.

The man mak­ing head­lines is Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng, state broad­caster SABC’s group ex­ec­u­tive for cor­po­rate af­fairs (Geca). Un­til re­cently, he was the or­gan­i­sa­tion’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer (COO).

Mot­soe­neng’s job be­gan to at­tract na­tional at­ten­tion when the main op­po­si­tion party kicked up a fuss over his qual­i­fi­ca­tions. They claimed he had not passed his Ma­tric (a term com­monly used to re­fer to the fi­nal year of high school and the qual­i­fi­ca­tion re­ceived upon grad­u­a­tion, al­though, strictly speak­ing, it refers to the min­i­mum univer­sity en­trance re­quire­ments). Most jobs in South Africa, es­pe­cially such se­nior po­si­tions, re­quire ap­pli­cants to have Ma­tric.

The op­po­si­tion took the mat­ter to the courts and, while await­ing their day in court, Mot­soe­neng pulled a pop­ulist rab­bit out of the hat when he de­creed that the state broad­caster’s con­tent would be 90 per cent lo­cal prac­ti­cally overnight. This move was in­stantly pop­u­lar with lo­cal artistes, whose mu­sic and other cre­ative out­put would dom­i­nate the air­waves.

At the same time, how­ever, there were rum­blings in the SABC of cen­sor­ship in­sti­gated by the COO, who, hop­ing to please the gov­ern­ment, de­clared the SABC would no longer screen vi­o­lent protests in its news pro­grammes. Jour­nal­ists and pro­duc­ers who com­plained got fired.

The two moves di­vided the pub­lic, with some peo­ple sid­ing with the COO for his 90 per cent lo­cal con­tent move, and oth­ers an­gered by the cen­sor­ship and claim­ing the COO was be­hav­ing as if he and not the tax­pay­ers owned the SABC.

All along, Mot­soe­neng ar­ro­gantly dared any­one op­pos­ing him to try and take him on. Re­cently, the courts de­clared his ap­point­ment at COO was il­le­gal, and the SABC board, which has backed their man all the way de­spite his lack of qual­i­fi­ca­tions, moved him into his new job as Geca.

By this point, se­nior mem­bers of the rul­ing ANC and the gov­ern­ment had come out call­ing for the man to be sacked and the SABC board quizzed about Mot­soe­neng. But in the tried and tested way of politi­cians and of­fi­cials that Kenyans are used to, Mot­soe­neng is stand­ing firm. He even wrote a let­ter to one of the Sun­day news­pa­pers last week­end, threat­en­ing those who op­pose him with law­suits and ba­si­cally show­ing the mid­dle fin­ger to his op­po­nents.

Mot­soe­neng’s story re­minds me of Ezekiel Mu­tua, an­other of­fi­cial who rev­els in stick­ing his tongue out at the pub­lic that pays his salary. I won­der what makes them feel un­touch­able.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kenya

© PressReader. All rights reserved.