SMMEs waiting on council for jobs
● A kingmaker is not a ‘democracy-maker’, ‘consensus-finder’, ‘poverty-ender’ or ‘job-creator’
SMMEs in Nelson Mandela Bay are pinning their hopes of having a “good Christmas” on the next council meeting, meant to sit on Tuesday, after officials who are supposed to approve work packages did not turn up for work again on Friday.
The small business owners gathered outside the City Hall in an attempt to ensure work packages were signed off, but following a meeting with acting municipal manager Peter Neilson, it was agreed to leave it to the council to decide.
The SMMEs are demanding to be given work, with officials instructed to approve the appointment of 600 SMMEs to clean drains at a cost of R18m.
Black business caucus co-ordinator Lithemba Singaphi confirmed they had met Neilson but because of the “revolt by officials in the municipality against the political leadership” they had decided to let the council decide.
“There is something coming on Tuesday.
“Our issues were addressed by the acting municipal manager because all legal processes to get these projects were followed.
“Everyone has agreed the matter will be taken to council and it will be approved by a majority vote.
“We know the DA won’t agree to it because it doesn’t care about SMME growth.
“We don’t care about the DA,” Singaphi said.
On Thursday, hundreds of SMMEs shut down two of the city’s main administration buildings – Lillian Diedericks and Mfanasekhaya Gqobose – in Port Elizabeth’s Govan Mbeki Avenue, preventing officials from reporting for work.
The political leadership has instructed officials to take R18m meant for infrastructure projects and temporary Expanded Public Works Programme jobs to accommodate 600 SMMEs that have demanded work before Christmas.
On Thursday, officials were nowhere to be found when SMMEs were piling on the pressure for work packages.
The metro has already cleaned stormwater drains around the city this financial year, and has spent 70% of its budget on this.
Singaphi said the SMMEs could not be given the work packages until infrastructure and engineering executive director Walter Shaidi signed it off because “the services needed are in his department and we can’t bypass him”.
Although Shaidi is on sick leave, Singaphi accused him of running around.
Bay mayor Mongameli Bobani said the matter was out of the politicians’ hands and it was now up to officials to deal with it.
Neilson said all that was left to do was for the council to approve the R18m.
Neilson said officials had identified projects that the SMMEs would undertake and that the municipality did not want to use grant funding allocated for different projects.
“The second phase would be to legally appoint contractors through a section 32 procurement process . . . ” Neilson said.
Kingmaker. It’s a sexy word used to describe sexy people, transporting us into a woodpanelled, cigar-scented world in which Ralph Fiennes, Michael Fassbender and the sweary Scot from The Thick of It trade exquisite barbs over who should become the next minister of foreign affairs.
In SA, the word describes slightly less sexy people, unless your kink involves hypocrites in red overalls tweeting veiled threats to journalists.
The word, however, has retained its appeal – on Thursday it was in the headlines yet again, as an amaBhungane investigation hinted at dirty dealings in Johannesburg, where the local “kingmakers” allegedly made the DA an offer it could not refuse.
Yes, we’ll be hearing about “kingmakers” for as long as creaking big parties need noisy and opportunistic small ones.
Which is why, I think, it might be useful to take a moment and look at the word itself.
Not the political context. Not the current circus of fictitious Canadian bank accounts and media boycotts and all the other tedious performance of opposition politics.
Let’s just look at the word, and, for perhaps the first time in years, think about what it’s saying, and how perfectly it describes current SA politics.
The thing that strikes me first about the word “kingmaker” is all the words that it isn’t.
It isn’t, for example, “democracy-maker”, or “consensusfinder”, or “poverty-ender” or “job-creator”.
No. It’s “kingmaker”: a person or party who, through its actions or influence, causes a new king to be crowned. And what is a king?
A king, throughout almost all of recorded history, is a person who is untouchable and unimpeachable.
A king is God’s right hand on Earth, with the power of life and death, and a divine right to do whatever he wants and to never have to explain his whims. The people who live under his control are not citizens: they are subjects.
Almost without exception, he is a person who becomes fantastically wealthy by taxing the poor in his kingdom, often to death.
He may confiscate property from those he perceives as enemies and hand it to those he believes are friends. If he indulges in politics, perhaps by establishing some sort of servile parliament, it is to entrench his own power and that of his sycophants.
It is very, very rare that a king serves his people.
But there is one subject who serves the common good even less. And that is the kingmaker.
A kingmaker by definition puts personal political ambitions ahead of the needs of the country. Patronage, not patriotism, is paramount.
He is also, by definition, two-faced: he will sell his principles in a heartbeat if it means getting a foot in the door of power, trumpeting that suchand-such a party is racist or corrupt while forging alliances with it.
Yes, we’ll be reading plenty about kingmakers in the coming months, as if they are normal or benign or somehow helpful to democracy.
And yes, I know it’s a figure of speech. But sometimes words mean what they say, or at least show their truth in plain sight. Kingmakers might thrive inside the democratic process, but they have contempt for the will of the people. And in the end, they serve only one ruler – their own ambition.
A kingmaker puts personal political ambitions ahead of the needs of the country. Patronage, not patriotism, is paramount