Former premier owed respect for achievements
NATHI Olifant’s unkind portrayal of former IFP KwaZulu-Natal premier Dr Lionel Mtshali (‘Lionel’s spiral’, Sunday Tribune, October 18) warrants a response. The diction employed throughout is of the kind that has become reserved for politicians who hail from parties other than the ANC. It is hard to imagine a profile of a former ANC premier written with so much malice and so little grace.
I wish to reiterate my view that as the longest serving KwaZulu-Natal premier to date, Dr Mtshali did a great deal to transform our province economically and socially. He did so with his hands tied by an unreliable coalition partner, the ANC, whose desire to unseat the IFP-led provincial government often got the better of some ANC ministers.
Despite the difficult political circumstances, Dr Mtshali pioneered the distribution of antiretrovirals to HIV-positive pregnant women at a time when this policy was vigorously opposed by the national minister of Health as well as her counterpart in KwaZulu-Natal, Dr Zweli Mkhize, who is now our premier.
On the whole, Dr Mtshali ran an efficient and cogent administration, free from grand self-promotion and bland self-congratulation which came so clearly to characterise his successor’s term of office.
As leader of the Official Opposition after 2004, Dr Mtshali was instrumental in exposing some of the worst excesses in the ANC administration, most memorably the massive mismanagement and fraud in the Department of Agriculture.
Since this year’s election, Dr Mtshali’s contribution to the work of the legislature’s portfolio committee’s remains immense. His grasp of government business is unparalleled as is his life-long experience of the public office and his readiness to share it with his juniors.