Gwede Mantashe is the disciplinarian South Africa needs
Ill-discipline must be uprooted from our society and its media. Minister Mantashe has repeatedly demonstrated that he is our best chance at helping to create a disciplined South Africa.
Dearest most Honourable Minister Samson Gwede Mantashe,
If you’re reading this email, then I have much to be grateful for. Not only is my favourite minister, my uncle in the energy business, taking the time to read my humble ramblings, but you Sir have also generously spared increasingly rare kilowatts of electricity to read these thoughts of a lowly South African. Thank you, Sir.
In fact, my reason for writing to you is to shower you with gratitude for all you have done for me; for all you have taught me, even though you had no idea of the ways you were influencing my very existence. See, all my life I have struggled with personal discipline. To this day, I have no doubt it is this lack of discipline that has resulted in the poor life choices that have led me to an unfortunate career trajectory; a trajectory that has landed me in this office, sharing a desk with self-important petulant reprobates who refuse to follow the script.
I have gone from sangoma to priest to therapist to self-help literature in search of solutions. Nothing helped until one day in 2015, when I happened upon an article that made me realise that I had an uncle in the discipline business; a true and dominant Samson who would never allow himself to be tricked by this Delilah of a country.
I remember that day as though it was yesterday. The former journalist, Ranjeni Munusamy, in a moment of spectacular ill-discipline, pressed you on whether then president, and current reluctant defendant, Jacob Zuma had discussed something called the Marikana report with the ANC’s National Executive Committee. You told her in no uncertain terms: “You were not listening… you were ill-disciplined!”
And when other journalists pressed on with follow-up questions, you sagaciously gave them what I consider truly valuable career advice for all journalists: “If you project yourself as hostile, we refuse to give you an interview… it’s our right. Continue with your hostile stance. I am sharing with you how we deal with you as journalists when you are reckless when you write stories, we won’t give you interviews.”
As I sat on my couch reading your words, three words unexpectedly and unintentionally sprang forth from mine undisciplined lips: “Discipline me daddy!”
I knew in that moment that a teacher had been sent forth to guide me, to whip the demon of delinquency out of me, to tie up and bind those undisciplined parts of me that had long troubled my New South African soul. Over the following years, I have watched and learnt from you as, against all odds, you have continued to prioritise discipline above all else; even as some, distracted by news of corruption, State Capture and a failing economy, succumbed to ill-discipline.
A case in point: last year, former ANC MP, and then former leader of African Democratic Change, and then former KZN chairwoman of ActionSA, and ultimately a cautionary tale personified, Dr Makhosi Busisiwe Khoza, testified to the Zondo Omission that during those glorious Zuma years, you led the crusade to tell MPs that they couldn’t vote with their conscience and they had to toe the party line.
She said that you said “anyone who sought to uphold the rule of law will be severely punished.” Mhmm…yes.
She continued: “I am a living example of that because Gwede Mantashe didn’t only make the statement, but he went further and acted on it and he fired me.” Well done, Uncle Gweezy! As I’m sure you know, as of March this year, she was kicked out of ActionSA for reasons that sound very much like ill-discipline. Had she heeded your warning, I have no doubt there’d still be a warm bowl of gravy for her on your train. This is why I refuse to take seriously any Busisiwe whose last name is not Mkhwebane. #JeSuisMkhwebane.
And speaking of busybody Busis of the non-Mkhwebane variety, I experienced something akin to spiritual rapture last week when I came across your enlightened utterances at the recent ANC Eastern Cape conference. I’m sure you’ll recall back in April when Eskom board member, Busisiwe-definitely-not-Mkhwebane Mavuso, said, “The problems that we have today at Eskom is at first the incapability of the ANC to take hard decisions following the white paper in 1998. Secondly, the destruction of institutions as well as prosecuting capabilities made to repurpose state institutions for private gain under Zuma, under the watch of the ANC in parliament. So we cannot expect today’s problems to be put on Andre de Ruyter or even at the board.” Shortly after, she stormed out of the meeting!
Just when I thought this disgraceful display of petulance would go undisciplined, you came through for us as our national disciplinarian at the ANC Eastern Cape conference: “If you resist nuclear and you [are] a board member, I fire you, simple. You can’t be in a board of something you’re not advocating for… We put someone in a board at Eskom and they then insult the ANC. Each [time] this person sits in a board meeting they get paid, then acts like she doesn’t have responsibility.”
You really do put the Man in Mantashe, uncle Samson. Your words electrified me that day. They grabbed me by the neck and choked the indiscipline right out of me. Thank you so much for calling out Ms Mavuso’s astounding lack of discipline. When will these people learn that a government pay cheque comes with a responsibility to never ever criticise the ANC? I pity them, for they shall never know the rapturous ecstasy of submission.
I must also commend the discipline and consistency you’ve shown in dealing with the West and their local agents’ jealousy and envy over our limitless natural resources. I was so moved by your words at the mining conference back in January when you told the audience that there is “an anti-development movement that is emerging, which is very confident, very emboldened. Every time you explore for mining, or even for oil and gas in the ocean, they take you to court… They are funded heavily by foreign entities. That’s why they have top-class lawyers to oppose exploration. And if we don’t protect that, we are not going to succeed in growing the mining industry.” Thank goodness our mining industry can depend on your disciplined commitment. Dig daddy; dig deep.
Not only are you the chief whip of my soul, but you are also the disciplinarian-in-chief our country needs. I have absolutely no doubt that this is what CR saw in you when he handed you the energy portfolio. Seriously, what else could it be?
In my humble opinion, yours is without a doubt the most important portfolio in a country like ours. As you no doubt know, ours is a country brought to its knees by numerous challenges; not the least of which are those to our energy supply. Not only are the decisions taken by your department defining life in present-day South Africa, but they will shape what will become of this country and its people for generations to come. The Fates have put our destiny in your hands.
So go ahead and keep focusing what truly matters, discipline us, whip us into shape like the naughty little Busis we are, discipline us good! Like my favourite 70s band, Boney M, once sang: “What about it Daddy Coal, Daddy, Daddy Coal.”
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