Helen loves her – proof pol­i­tics makes for strange bed­fel­lows


Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES - WIL­LIAM SAUN­DER­SON–MEYER

WHAT is not said is of­ten more im­por­tant than what is. The re­sponse of DA par­lia­men­tary leader Lindiwe Maz­ibuko to this week’s cabi­net reshuf­fle is a case in point.

Maz­ibuko wel­comed the exit of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Dina Pule, but found in­ex­pli­ca­ble the re­ten­tion of Po­lice Min­is­ter Nathi Mthethwa, Agri­cul­ture, Forestry and Fish­eries Min­is­ter Tina Joe­matPet­ters­son, and Min­eral Re­sources Min­is­ter Su­san Sha­bangu.

The DA wanted the fir­ing also of Collins Cha­bane, min­is­ter in the Pres­i­dency, Labour Min­is­ter Mil­dred Oli­fant, and State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Siyabonga Cwele.

So have you yet spot­ted the miss­ing name, the royal game, that the DA won’t set its sights on? Here are some clues.

It’s a min­is­ter whose depart­ment has per­formed lamentably, the fail­ure of which has in­cal­cu­la­ble neg­a­tive knock-on ef­fects. It’s a min­is­ter who has a cava­lier at­ti­tude to court or­ders and whose depart­ment is rife with cor­rup­tion. It’s a min­is­ter who’s been cowed by the unions that are run­ning her sec­tor into the ground.

That’s right folks. It’s Ba­sic Ed­u­ca­tion Min­is­ter Angie Mot­shekga. The IFP lamented her sur­vival as a min­is­ter, so did Agang. Not the DA, which has a strange in­fat­u­a­tion with her.

Not al­ways so. Last year the DA spokes­woman on ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion, An­nette Love­more, launched an im­pas­sioned at­tack on Mot­shekga’s per­for­mance, de­scrib­ing the sit­u­a­tion in the sec­tor as “tragic”. She ques­tioned Mot­shekga’s use of Edu­So­lu­tions, the com­pany be­hind the failed de­liv­ery of text­books and the tar­get of a R320 mil­lion cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tion, and asked why Mot­shekga had con­tin­ued to pro­mote Edu­So­lu­tions de­spite its “his­tory of fraud and in­com­pe­tence”.

As­ton­ish­ingly, first out of the blocks to de­fend Mot­shekga was the DA national leader, Helen Zille. In a pub­lic slap-down of the par­lia­men­tary DA, Zille said that fir­ing Mot­shekga “would treat a su­per­fi­cial symp­tom, but leave the root causes un­ad­dressed”, that the ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis had taken many years to de­velop and that with­out Mot­shekga “things would prob­a­bly go from bad to worse”.

That’s not so dif­fer­ent from Zuma shrug­ging off blame for the ed­u­ca­tion cri­sis and sim­ply lay­ing it at the door of apartheid. As to the sit­u­a­tion pos­si­bly de­te­ri­o­rat­ing fur­ther if Mot­shekga were to be re­moved, that is, of course, the risk with any min­is­te­rial change.

The likely ex­pla­na­tion of such pro­tec­tive­ness across party di­vides is that it’s a tacit quid pro quo. Mot­shekga, what­ever her faults, is prag­matic about not in­ter­fer­ing when some­thing is clearly work­ing. This is crit­i­cal for the DA-ruled Western Cape, if is to be able to con­tinue mak­ing the changes it be­lieves nec­es­sary to im­prove ed­u­ca­tional out­comes in the prov­ince.

The par­lia­men­tary DA has since taken Zille’s lead, with a no­tice­ably muted ap­proach to Mot­shekga. When DA sup­port­ers last year voted their as­sess­ments of Pres­i­dent’s Ja­cob Zuma’s cabi­net, Mot­shekga was bot­tom of the class with an F. But when the DA’s an­nual “cabi­net re­port card” was is­sued, the sym­bol had been up­graded to a more re­spectable D.

Mot­shekga re­cently dis­missed civil so­ci­ety ac­tivists like Equal Ed­u­ca­tion as a “group of white adults or­gan­is­ing black African chil­dren with half-truths”. There was out­rage, in­clud­ing from the In­sti­tute of Race Re­la­tions and the likes of for- mer National Prose­cut­ing Au­thor­ity head Vusi Pikoli, ob­ject­ing that this was racist. But the nor­mally quickto-the-jugu­lar DA hasn’t mur­mured a word of crit­i­cism.

Not ev­ery­one in the DA buys such soft-ped­alling. For­mer par­lia­men­tary leader Athol Trol­lip says that he is “gobsmacked” at Mot­shekga’s omis­sion from the list of min­is­ters that the DA wants sacked. He said that aside from her in­com­pe­tence at a national level, Mot­shekga’s her­alded in­ter­ven­tion to sort out the chaotic Eastern Cape ed­u­ca­tion depart­ment had been an “ut­ter fail­ure”.

But for now Angie is Helen’s squeeze and though they don’t like it, most DA pub­lic rep­re­sen­ta­tives will toe the line.

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