Mot­soe­neng fly­ing too close to the heav­ens

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - LIFE -

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.

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