The Star Early Edition

SA hit by a wave of in­com­pe­tence

- ONKGOPOTSE JJ TABANE Au­topi­lot mode in South Africa begs ques­tion of ‘who is run­ning the coun­try’ dur­ing these trou­bled times South Africa News · Discrimination · Politics · Justice · Human Rights · Society · Law · South Africa · Africa · Internationaler Strafgerichtshof · United Kingdom Ministry of Justice · Jacob Zuma · Bloemfontein · Bloemfontein Celtic F.C. · Jacques Pauw · Justice Ministry · Bathabile Dlamini · Twitter · African National Congress · Iran Ministry of Intelligence

IAM LOATH to be­labour the point about the cri­sis of lead­er­ship in South Africa, but it’s a sub­ject that can­not be sum­marised in one col­umn. A few months ago, a court re­versed the gov­ern­ment’s de­ci­sion to with­draw from the In­ter­na­tional Crim­i­nal Court. It seemed that the Min­istry of Jus­tice, which is sup­posed to be the cus­to­dian of in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the law and the con­sti­tu­tion, was the last to know what process you need to fol­low if you want to ef­fec­tively re­scind a law passed by a demo­cratic par­lia­ment. They needed a full court to sit over sev­eral days to ed­u­cate them about their ba­sic man­date.

This seems to be the trend these days, if the ter­ri­ble le­gal ad­vice that the gov­ern­ment seems to con­tin­u­ously re­ceive is any­thing to go by. There is a lot of this in dis­play in the high­est of­fice in the land, with lawyers rep­re­sent­ing Ja­cob Zuma in nu­mer­ous mat­ters con­ced­ing un­der le­gal scru­tiny and ar­gu­ments. In the spy tapes saga, for ex­am­ple, they went all the way to Bloem­fontein to have the judg­ment of the lower court re­it­er­ated to them – this is the kind of wastage of tax­pay­ers’ money that has now taken so much root that it will re­quire a mir­a­cle to be changed.

For­tu­nately, the courts are be­com­ing in­tol­er­ant of this waste, and more and more pu­bic of­fi­cials will find them­selves with a le­gal bill to set­tle. But I di­gress.

I wanted to re­flect on our tol­er­ance lev­els for in­com­pe­tence as a so­ci­ety. So the Min­istry of In­tel­li­gence, both past and present, have been caught flat-footed on a range of mat­ters of na­tional se­cu­rity. The past min­is­ter had no idea that the FeesMustFa­ll move­ment would bring the coun­try to a stand­still; or on his ver­sion, had an idea but did not act to pre­vent this from hap­pen­ing.

The cur­rent min­is­ter maybe had ev­ery ex­cuse not to know that #Black­Mon­day would hap­pen or that Jac­ques Pauw was plan­ning to re­lease a book that would show Zuma in a bad light. As if this wasn’t enough, he was the last to know his own agency/department had sent a cease and de­sist let­ter to the pub­lish­ers of the ex­plo­sive book. Like his Jus­tice Min­istry coun­ter­part, he might soon need the court to re­mind him what free­dom of ex­pres­sion means.

Early this year, the min­is­ter of so­cial devel­op­ment was in court be­ing lec­tured by the chief jus­tice about her job. She holds a record as prob­a­bly the only mem­ber of the ex­ec­u­tive who has for­mally be­ing de­clared in­com­pe­tent by a court of law. This is stag­ger­ing, but don’t for a minute think this wor­ries the happy one. Batha­bile Dlamini, whose name means “they are happy”, should be the only per­son who is happy about her han­dling of the Sassa saga – ex­cept the pres­i­dent, of course, who de­fended her spirit­edly in his dis­as­trous Q&A in Par­lia­ment last week. It seems Batha­bile is hell bent on mak­ing an Amer­i­can com­pany very happy. It is very hard to un­der­stand why she is the last one to know that a state agency like the SA Post Of­fice – un­der a com­pe­tent chief ex­ec­u­tive, for a change – can in fact de­liver the same, if not bet­ter, ser­vice to the pub­lic. She wants a case study of 100 trans­ac­tions to test this – this is bizarre in the ex­treme. But we should not be sur­prised.

This is a per­son who, de­spite a crim­i­nal record of steal­ing money from Par­lia­ment through il­le­gal travel trans­ac­tions, was pro­moted by Zuma to be in charge of billions of rand des­tined for the most vul­ner­a­ble in our so­ci­ety.

We have seen vi­o­lent protests in com­mu­ni­ties, and po­lice act­ing firmly – just last week, about 90 peo­ple were ar­rested dur­ing protests over taxis and Ubers. Last Mon­day, high­ways were blocked and old flags, but raised not a sin­gle rub­ber bul­let was fired to clear the roads, un­like when we saw a sim­i­lar stunt be­ing pulled by the taxis not so long ago. Seems the po­lice were the last ones to un­der­stand that both acts are il­le­gal.

The rais­ing of the flag – quite apart from be­ing a brazen provo­ca­tion to the ma­jor­ity of peace-lov­ing south Africans – must be cat­e­gorised as hate speech and should have the per­pe­tra­tors be­ing rounded off to prison. But the Min­istry of Po­lice and Min­istry of Arts and Cul­ture were the first on Twit­ter to con­demn these acts but clearly the last ones to take any ac­tion akin to the clam­p­down we see in ser­vice de­liv­ery protests or protests on cam­puses over fees.

These ex­am­ples may just re­veal that we are on au­topi­lot mode – the big ques­tion these days must be: Who is run­ning South Africa? We can see clearly who is run­ning it into the ground, if these few ex­am­ples are any­thing to go by. We don’t yet want to com­ment about the sham­bolic ed­u­ca­tion and health­care sys­tems that see 50% of kids who

started school 12 years ago fail­ing ma­tric or psy­chi­atric pa­tients dy­ing like flies at the hands of health work­ers. In these in­stances, the rel­e­vant po­lit­i­cal and even ad­min­is­tra­tive au­thor­i­ties are the last to know what on earth is go­ing on un­der their noses. Is the pic­ture this grim or are we be­ing pes­simists? Should we be­lieve that even if 82 kids are mo­lested at a school, we have a car­ing gov­ern­ment? Should we be­lieve that even if dozens of peo­ple die in a Marikana or a Life Esidi­meni scan­dal, we have a gov­ern­ment that will at least show up for its own con­stituency? If we see a pres­i­dent who has gone com­pletely rogue, must we be­lieve that the ANC will rise again and re­store a sem­blance of or­der and dig­nity to our pub­lic life by ar­rest­ing this wave of in­com­pe­tence? And even in the face of state cap­ture, should we be­lieve that these are the last kicks of a dy­ing horse? And that post-De­cem­ber some sem­blance of or­der will be re­stored? Frankly, the an­swers are not ob­vi­ous.

 ?? PIC­TURE: TRACEY ADAMS / ANA ?? BIZARRE: Min­is­ter of So­cial Devel­op­ment Batha­bile Dlamini in Par­lia­ment last week dur­ing the de­bate over the Sassa grants and the abil­ity of the Post Of­fice to dis­trib­ute the grants.
PIC­TURE: TRACEY ADAMS / ANA BIZARRE: Min­is­ter of So­cial Devel­op­ment Batha­bile Dlamini in Par­lia­ment last week dur­ing the de­bate over the Sassa grants and the abil­ity of the Post Of­fice to dis­trib­ute the grants.
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