Dear Minister Mbalula, trust is earned – and you have failed that test too many times
It is not the media that stops you from delivering on your many broken promises. Even you cannot close your eyes fully to the fact that we’re but one step away from breaking down – as a society, as people, as a country, as a state – and we are ruled by a party that is breaking down from within.
You start your attack on Stephen Grootes, one of South Africa’s most respected journalists, in the usual manner, a response to his story, “How low can they all go, Mr President? The case of the still unbreakable Mr Mbalula”:
It is rather telling that his polemic is anchored on the Ukraine tweet, which was clearly satire and a metaphor published on a social media platform. This clearly signals how low he is prepared to stoop, to beat war drums and call for my removal as a minister.
You say that your tweet was a metaphor… a metaphor for what?
If it were true that your Ukraine tweet was “clearly satire and a metaphor”, then why did you not say so at the time? When the tweet was published no one in government or the ANC saw it as satire. ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe clearly did not get the joke; he told News24: “I think he’s been hacked.”
South Africa’s ambassador to Ukraine, Andre Groenewald, also had to answer questions on it. So, if it was a metaphor, Minister, it clearly failed.
But even more damning, in fact, is your own response to questions about your Ukraine tweet.
When Newzroom Afrika’s Ziyanda Ngcobo asked you about the tweet, you said:
“No, I’m not going to talk about that… no, I didn’t trivialise anything and I’m not going to comment.”
Ngcobo interjected: “Why won’t you comment on it – were you or were you not in Ukraine?”
You replied: “No, no, no, I’m not going to comment on that… are there questions on the driver’s licence?”
Then, on Twitter you attacked Ngcobo, saying:
“The serious issue i was addressing was people protesting over an important matter of online drivers licenses,There was violence over this matter ,So to you a tweet that i have landed in Ukraine is more important than this matter of licences,And u were prepared to be uncoothed.” (NB: Multiple sic…)
If you now say it was satire and a metaphor, why did you not say so then? Why did you refuse, in fact, point-blank refuse, to say so?
What has changed between that moment, in March, two months ago, when you could not tell us that this was satire and a metaphor, and now?
As the majority of the country did not understand your metaphor, could you please do South Africa a favour and enlighten us once and for all so we can better understand your approach to your own Twitter account?
Later in your “reply” to Grootes, you say:
Ministers serve at the pleasure of the President. If I do not perform to the satisfaction of the President, he has every right to remove me as a minister. The execution of my work is guided by the performance agreement I have signed with the President, in addition to constitutional and legal imperatives.
Which, of course, is the case, that you serve at the (dis)pleasure of the President, as we have seen in the cases of other ministers, whose performance was not only criminally bad or just plain criminal, but in some cases catastrophic for South Africa, yet nothing ever happened to them.
Here are only a few disastrous examples, out of so many we can pick:
- David Mahlobo – State Security, Energy – now deputy minister of water affairs;
- Tina Joemat-Pettersson – Forestry and Fisheries, Energy, among others – now chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Police;
- Nosiviwe Noluthando Mapisa-Nqakula – many Cabinet posts, the latest as defence minister – now Speaker of the South African Parliament;
- Mosebenzi Zwane – the Guptas’ favourite minister of mining – is currently the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Transport;
- Faith Muthambi – the Guptas’ favourite communications minister – is now the ANC Whip on the Portfolio Committee on Communications, of all places;
- Gwede Mantashe –Minister of Mining AND Energy, still…
- Lindiwe Sisulu – indestructible minister of everything.
Do we really need to say more? The fact that you’re still a minister in the South African government is, unfortunately, not a reflection of your performance but rather your relative political standing.
Stephen Grootes is an embedded journalist who has sacrificed his journalistic ethos to the gutter and narrow political interests he has accepted to be manipulated by.
Okay, we have heard this “argument” once too often, now. Please furnish details on:
- Embedded how?
- Embedded by whom?
- Working for whom?
- Whose narrow political interests?
- Any proof you mind sharing with us?
(You do have proof, don’t you, Minister?)
You also claim:
Mr Grootes makes bold assertions, alleging that I make empty promises and announcements. My media briefings are either unveiling progress or communicating achievements we have registered. These range from rural roads upgraded using block paving technology, recovery of commuter rail services, to work Sanral is doing to assist communities affected by disasters.
Transport is a vast portfolio and a key driver of economic activity. It would be remiss of me if I did not keep society informed about the work we do. I never hold press briefings for vanity, but rather communicate progress in a sector that directly touches people’s lives. Belittling my statement that the announcement on e-tolls by Cabinet is imminent, exposes how little Mr Grootes understands government processes. The work we have been doing with the minister of finance will be tabled before Cabinet for a final determination.
You say that we have “belittled” your statement that the “announcement on e-tolls by Cabinet is imminent”.
Excuse us if we feel it may be better if we do not hold our breath – the human body cannot survive without oxygen for minutes, let alone years. You said the same thing, exactly a year ago. If it was imminent a year ago, what is it now? More imminent? Imminently imminent? Super-imminent?
You even changed your Twitter name to “Mr Fixit”.
Is the experience of commuters “fixed”? Your latest promise is for this line to be sorted out by June. That’s tomorrow, if you were thinking 2022. Will it be fixed by then?
You appear to be very concerned about the claim that “I make empty promises and statements”. How about the time, as police minister, when a group of 10 men were tied up by police, their hands cuffed with cable ties and laid on the ground for several hours, just so that you could have a photograph taken with the “suspects” in Cape Town’s Marikana murder?
Only for them to be released without charge when it became obvious they were not guilty of anything – they were on their way to a funeral.
A group of people are held illegally, against their will, face down on the tar, for hours, just for you to have your photograph taken?
We all understand that the problems of your portfolios are massive. We even have sympathy for you, yours is not a job that we would like.
I will not defend myself against falsehoods that are used to chase an award at my expense. I am aware of the interests Mr Grootes is representing, which are sponsored by factional elements within the ruling party. He is not the first to mount a campaign casting aspersions on my integrity and a call to question my competence as a minister.
Again, please do share with us! Would it not be in your best interest to prove beyond any doubt that Mr Grootes is “sponsored”? Otherwise, some people may accuse you of being the one who “casts aspersions”?
You also say:
Mr Grootes behaves like a latter-day Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi chief spin doctor and propagandist who believed in the doctrine that if a lie is repeated frequently enough, the people will eventually believe it as gospel truth. That is how he defended fascism. He is not raising any public discourse, but a spurious attack disguised as objective criticism.
You’re but one of many accusing Daily Maverick, its editor and journalists of being latter-day embodiments of Joseph Goebbels – the EFF leadership and Iqbal Survé and his henchmen got there long before you.
You do know who Joseph Goebbels was and what he stood for? Are you seriously going to raise the prospect of a journalist being a Nazi just because you didn’t like what they wrote about you?
In the words of Fidel Castro, I dare say, “History will absolve me”.
Well, many of your previous issues are now in the past that is behind us considerably. They still don’t look good – and we didn’t hear anything yet about you being absolved. Here are but a few:
- R45m ‘Nasrec grabber’ was Fikile Mbalula’s idea, claims National Police Commissioner Khehla Sitole in court papers;
- The minister, the suspended Lottery boss and the curious purchase of a R5.6-million Bryanston house;
- Stop attacking head of SABC news, Sanef tells Fikile Mbalula;
- Crumbling Philippi station on Cape Town’s Central Line highlights Prasa’s enormous challenges;
- Fikile ‘Fearfokkol’ Mbalula tripped up by semantics of his Gupta-fix tale;
- Mbalula denies getting Zondo summons, dismisses ‘lies and slander’ about Prasa appointment;
- Dear Minister FixIt, fixed anything lately? Your legacy says otherwise.
And this is just the recent past. Are you still feeling certain about history “absolving” you?
If we go back into “history”, could you explain how did Grace Mugabe really manage to leave South Africa after you, as police minister, expressly stated you were gunning for her? Was it incompetence? Bad luck? Grace’s shape-shifting? What was it, Minister?
Or will we ever hear why your closest adviser tried to pull Daily Maverick into a fake news story about your imminent murder attempt, an amateurish attempt which we documented here:
Or what has finally happened with that scandal while you were the sports minister?
Dear Minister Mbalula, the media is not your problem.
It is not the news media that stops you from delivering on your many broken promises. Even you cannot close your eyes fully to the fact that we’re but one step away from breaking down – as a society, as people, as a country, as a state – and we are ruled by a party that is breaking down from within.
It is the people of South Africa who are hurting after decades of you and your colleagues’ incompetence and the insular nature of the ANC leadership’s existence. The people you and your party colleagues manage to so thoroughly forget about.
You can accuse the news media of everything, from being Nazis to being after you personally in any number of permutations of nefarious objectives. You can blow away your anger as much as you want – for that you are obviously well endowed.
But nothing will change the fact that millions of hard-working people of South Africa fail, or are afraid, to come to work every morning, because of the failures of your department, causing incalculable damage to our morale, economy and sense of safety. People have lost hope.
Our country’s transport is a proper mess and we understand that it is not only your fault, we always have – but it doesn’t mean you are blameless after all these years you have spent in the post.
In conclusion, and for the record: Stephen Grootes does not work for any of your party’s factions or anyone else who’s not in ethical journalism.
And, dear Minister, should you once more accuse him, or any Daily Maverick journalist of being an embedded enemy or a living embodiment of Joseph Goebbels, we will not have a choice but to kindly ask you to prove your assertions in court.
Are you sure the courts of South Africa will absolve you, in the present tense, dear Sir?
Until next time,
Editor-in-Chief: Daily Maverick DM