Netshitenze anguishes over those who refuse to step down

By Branko Brkic 16 October 2009

Joel Netshitenze tells the Gauteng ANC: stop clinging to jobs you don't deserve. Also, how about appointing the right people in the first place, hmm?

It was the kind of speech the country’s middle classes had been crying out for. “Why do people with proof of wrong-doing against them stay in their jobs?” and “the ANC must be careful when appointing people to government, they must be more than good comrades, they must have the necessary skills.” This from a man who grew up in the ANC, and didn’t leave to join the Congress of the People either.
Joel Netshitenze is officially still head of policy for government, and of course was for many years deeply involved in policy for the ANC. He’s one of the few guys seen as an Mbekite who the Zuma crowd voted back onto the NEC – a bit like Trevor Manuel.

Netshitenze was speaking at a political discussion of the Gauteng ANC’s Provincial Executive Committee on Thursday afternoon. Of course, he was doing more than that; with the media allowed in, he was making a point. His audience included MEC’s like Firoz Cachalia and Barbara Creecy. There were even a few blasts from the past, Trevor Fowler who ran part of the Presidency for Thabo Mbeki, and yes, that really is Manto in the corner over there… sitting by herself. The meeting was the start of a big shindig for the Gauteng ANC, but they wanted to kick it off with a theoretical discussion first.

Netshitenze is part of the heritage of the ANC, but he’s not from the Mandela era, or before that. He’s also been the brains of the outfit, the man tasked with trying to solve the country’s problems. He is a massive nerd, but he does have a good sense of what is right and what is wrong.

He clearly feels that it’s wrong for people to cling on to their jobs, when they should clearly go. He did give examples of where this had happened, but he said those examples were off the record. You’ll have to trust us on this one, but they related to recent events you’ll have heard about, and possibly, been concerned about. And what he said was bang on right. It is absolutely wrong that some people hang around and try and stay on, when eventually they’re going to go.

But he wasn’t finished. He had plenty to say on the appointment – sorry, the deployment – of party cadres to government. It’s about the line between party and state, and that line must be respected. Oddly enough, President Jacob Zuma has said the same thing a few times recently, but Netshitenze carries a certain credibility when he says it.

His comments on corruption were pretty much bog standard for the new ANC, it’s becoming entrenched, it’ll destroy the fabric of the country, and so on and so forth. It was interesting to hear this from the man who really runs most of government policy, though.

Netshitenze also spoke about public discourse, and how it can damage the state. Again, we can’t give you the examples, but he’s worried about how people can respect the legal system when so much abuse is hurled at it. He also deplores too strong language in public relating to crime issues, feeling that it simply doesn’t help.

After he spoke, Pallo Jordan delivered a treatise on liberation movements and government. Two and a half hours later, we broke for coffee, and Netshitenze played pied piper as he grabbed his smokes and headed outside. We asked him for a quick interview “just to clarify what you mean and what was on the record”. He repeated most of what you’ve already read, making absolutely sure it would be reported on. But he struck us as quite nervous, he was shifting on his feet, hands clenched. He was clutching his Malboro Lights as he spoke, so that might have had something to do with it. 

He also had plenty to say on the latest round of protests, and how people getting away with violence undermined the legitimacy of the entire state. The one example he was quite happy to cite in public was the taxi industry, who “believe they have a licence to misbehave”.

So naturally we ask: what can be done to solve all of this? He smiled slightly forlornly as he looked up and said, “Those are some of the issues that are being discussed”.

And then he finally got his nicotine fix.

By Stepehen Grootes


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