Motsoeneng flying too close to the heavens
WILLIAM Butler Yeats said it first, in his poem The Second Coming: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
But it was the philosopher Bertrand Russell who put it a little more plainly: “The fundamental cause of the trouble is that in the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
Here at the Mahogany Ridge, we offer up the arrogant Hlaudi Motsoeneng as the perfect embodiment of these telling observations.
How pleasant then that the first cracks appeared and then startlingly widened in the stranglehold the apparently “untouchable” Motsoeneng has on the public broadcaster.
A week ago, Jackson Mthembu, the ANC chief whip and chairman of the party’s NEC communications subcommittee, laid into Motsoeneng’s “unintelligent” editorial policy changes at Auckland Park .
These, Mthembu has added, amounted to nothing less than political censorship. SABC board chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe then rose to Motsoeneng’s defence, basically telling Mthembu in no uncertain terms where to get off.
“The strategies that the COO and his team have put in place and sanctioned by the board have worked for the organisation,” Maghuve claimed.
“These political tugs-of-war… are diversionary and intended to de-focus the corporation from its mandate. We need to reiterate that we will not make any decisions that are aimed at censoring the news.”
That is utter rubbish, of course, and it will be interesting to see whether Communications Minister Faith Muthambi follows this tack when she meets with the NEC to explain the havoc wrought by Motsoeneng.
She reportedly has until Monday to account for the lack of leadership at the SABC and the crises there in the wake of accounts from journalists of bullying and political interference.
Muthambi once infamously said of President Jacob Zuma’s feelings for Motsoening, “Baba loves Hlaudi, he loves him so much. We must support him.” Somehow, we think that won’t wash this time round.
Meanwhile, the more cynical among the Mahogany Ridge regulars have reminded us of the great “Blacklist” scandal of 2006.
Back then, the SABC’s managing director of news and current affairs, Snuki Zikalala, had issued instructions that certain independent commentators were to be barred from appearing on television lest they say anything hurtful about Thabo Mbeki.
Mthembu’s voice was, it must be said, not among those who cried foul in any meaningful way during that particular controversy. Neither were very many of those of his colleagues in the ANC.
The 2006 scandal did have an unfortunate subsequent echo in the Nkandla saga, when Zikalala’s quisling successor, Jimi Matthews, reportedly instructed staff to refrain from using “certain terms” when reporting on the so-called security upgrades at President Jacob Zuma’s country pile.
Matthews has now oddly emerged as a champion of free expression by resigning from the SABC and complaining of the reign of terror he helped enforce. Comparisons with Rudolf Hess may or may not be unwarranted.
To be fair to him, Zikalala did have a Phd in journalism – albeit one from Sofia University in Bulgaria. Still, a degree in Soviet propaganda is better than a non-existent matric certificate, and one of Mthembu’s gripes is that Motsoeneng is just not qualified to lead the SABC.That may well be the case, but there is nevertheless something quite exceptional about Motsoeneng – and that is the lofty esteem in which he holds himself. Beyond mere narcissism, one would indeed need to travel far and wide to find an individual with as much hubristic disregard for the lessons of the gods.
Here is a young man who is not only flying too near the sun, but one who has, at great expense to the taxpayer, put together his own angel band, an SABC choir, to literally sing his praises.
The fall from grace that is coming will not, then be a complete surprise. It’s just a matter of how far he plummets. The height will determine the force of the impact, and this in turn will give us an indication of the sort of mess and collateral damage we can expect.
To this end, we’re opening a sporting book here at the Ridge and are offering fairly competitive odds on the sort of harm that Motsoeneng can yet inflict in what’s left of his term at the SABC.