‘I choose my name’

CityPress - - News -

Par­lia­ment jour­nal­ists call him the “lord of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance” – he strikes fear into the hearts of state of­fi­cials who ap­pear be­fore par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tees. But for Mondli Gun­gubele, ask­ing tough ques­tions is just part of his job.

The for­mer mayor of Ekurhu­leni is in Par­lia­ment for his sec­ond stint as an MP. He sits on the port­fo­lio com­mit­tees that over­see com­mu­ni­ca­tions and pub­lic en­ter­prises and is one of the hard-hit­ters.

In fact, Gun­gubele was de­ployed to Par­lia­ment’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee the night be­fore the water­shed meet­ing that de­cided that a full-blown in­quiry be held into the SABC in October last year.

On sev­eral oc­ca­sions since his re­turn to Par­lia­ment in Septem­ber last year, un­der-pres­sure state of­fi­cials have pub­licly ac­knowl­edged that they found his ques­tions and line of ques­tion­ing tough.

Gun­gubele told City Press this week: “I got wor­ried over time when of­fi­cials would be brief­ing politi­cians and they would say, ‘You don’t have to worry about that be­cause it is too tech­ni­cal.’” This was around 2007 when he was an MEC in Gaut­eng.

“I asked my­self, if we are prin­ci­pals in this en­vi­ron­ment as politi­cians and we must de­ter­mine the di­rec­tion of gov­ern­ment, how can it be cor­rect that there are things that are tech­ni­cal that we must not worry about? I then said, I am not com­fort­able be­cause I want to ac­count fully for ev­ery­thing I do.”

Gun­gubele spoke to his po­lit­i­cal boss in Gaut­eng, ANC pro­vin­cial chair­per­son Paul Mashatile, and sug­gested that he be de­ployed in the ad­min­is­tra­tion “so that, in fu­ture, no one says to me, ‘this is too tech­ni­cal’”.

Mashatile al­lowed him an op­por­tu­nity to be the chief di­rec­tor of an agency over­sight com­mit­tee, over­see­ing all gov­ern­ment agen­cies. This is where Gun­gubele, and the team he led, took up a course to “master” eval­u­at­ing and plan­ning, es­pe­cially the tech­niques of mon­i­tor­ing and eval­u­a­tion.

“When I be­came mayor of Ekurhu­leni, I in­tro­duced a man­age­ment sys­tem; you’ve never had a politi­cian in­tro­duc­ing a man­age­ment sys­tem. I en­gaged man­agers and they ac­cepted it. Of course, they im­proved it in a num­ber of ar­eas.

“The rest is his­tory, be­cause we im­me­di­ately beat the rest of the prov­ince in terms of what they call per­for­mance in­for­ma­tion and claim­ing sys­tems. We were rated by Moody’s as the best-run mu­nic­i­pal­ity in the coun­try.

“Around Au­gust last year, we were de­clared in the top three for customer sat­is­fac­tion and we had clean au­dits … all those things were not ac­ci­den­tal,” he said.

Gun­gubele, who has served in both the ex­ec­u­tive and the leg­is­la­ture, says it was a chal­lenge that the two arms of the state have not come to­gether to agree on the lan­guage of ac­count­abil­ity “and when­ever we raise these ques­tions, man­agers are puz­zled and they would say, ‘the things you are ask­ing us to do, you want us to change the Trea­sury stan­dards’”.

“In an in­sti­tu­tion that takes ac­count­abil­ity se­ri­ously, all the el­e­ments in that in­sti­tu­tion must align with the lan­guage of ac­count­abil­ity. It makes ac­count­abil­ity pain­less, smooth and use­ful. If you are com­ing to ac­count to Par­lia­ment, you must know what Par­lia­ment ex­pects.

“You can’t just say, ‘a bridge was built’. Re­sults-based man­age­ment forces you to say, if a bridge of R20 mil­lion is go­ing to be con­structed, where is it go­ing to be con­structed, the struc­ture, the com­po­nents, the costs?”

Gun­gubele de­scribed his de­ploy­ment to the com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee on the eve of the SABC in­quiry as a co­in­ci­dence and cred­ited the rest of his col­leagues for great work in turn­ing the pub­lic broad­caster around.

“I had been watch­ing the SABC for some time. The lack of ac­count­abil­ity, some cow­boys who were do­ing what­ever they wanted to do ... it used to ir­ri­tate me. I was lucky to be de­ployed with a team that was mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing.”

Gun­gubele said it ap­peared, how­ever, that some MPs were not clear on their au­thor­ity as MPs.

He said while some MPs ap­peared to be in­tim­i­dated by Cab­i­net mem­bers who are con­ven­tion­ally their se­niors in the party, oth­ers were silly and tended to have a cosy re­la­tion­ship with Cab­i­net mem­bers at the ex­pense of de­liv­ery.

Gun­gubele is one of those ANC MPs who have pub­licly said they would fol­low their con­science in the up­com­ing vote of no con­fi­dence in Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

He ex­plained: “I have com­mit­ted to fol­low­ing my con­science all my life. I joined the ANC be­cause of my con­science.” Gun­gubele de­fines con­science as “your at­ti­tude to life”. “Your at­ti­tude to life dic­tates who you must as­so­ci­ate with. In other words, a party must preach its phi­los­o­phy to those it wants to re­cruit and those who are be­ing re­cruited. Once their con­science res­onates with the phi­los­o­phy of the party, they join the party be­cause their at­ti­tude to life finds a con­nec­tion with the phi­los­o­phy of the party.

“It be­comes ironic and con­tra­dic­tory for a party to say the rea­son that made you join it has be­come ir­rel­e­vant. You now say that which made me join the party, can go to hell…”

He be­lieves be­sides fo­cus­ing on how ANC MPs vote, the issue should be what MPs are vot­ing about. “I must take a de­ci­sion be­cause when I leave Par­lia­ment that day, I must be able to face South Africa and ac­count for my de­ci­sion; whether I vote in favour, against or ab­stain.”

For Gun­gubele, there are two things he doesn’t want to risk.

“It’s my life and my name. If I’m forced to choose, I can give the other up and choose my name.”

PHOTO: JABU KU­MALO

Mondli Gun­gubele PRIN­CI­PLED ANC MP Mondli Gun­gubele

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