South Africa


Dear Minister Mbalula, trust is earned – and you have failed that test too many times

Dear Minister Mbalula, trust is earned – and you have failed that test too many times
Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula, seen here in this file photo at the announcement of the final results for the 2019 Election at the National Results Operation Center (ROC) in Pretoria on Saturday 11 May 2019. Photo: Leila Dougan

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.

You claim:

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?

In 2019 you told commuters on Cape Town’s Central Line: “I’m here to fix things.” A year later you made a similar promise.

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. 

You say:

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: 

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? 

Grace Mugabe makes a farce of SA law enforcement

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:

Operation Wonder: Why we chose to ignore explosive dossier

Or what has finally happened with that scandal while you were the sports minister?

Editorial: Minister Mbalula’s laughable attempt at defending the indefensible

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, 

I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Branko Brkic

Editor-in-Chief: Daily Maverick DM


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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Andrew Johnson says:

    Excellent Mr Brkic, you summed up a lifetime of fixing nothing in one article.

  • Andre Engelbrecht says:

    Thank you, Sir. This man really is a f00l

    • jcdville stormers says:

      He,he,he,just check if he doesn’t arrange for Floyd “Money “Mayweather to come and defend him, he, he he.Well done Sir

  • Gerhard Vermaak says:

    You are being way too kind to this incompetent, intolerable, useless government “official”. How people like him and many others in the government get to keep their jobs unfortunately says more about their boss than about them, #ancmustfall

  • Lorinda Winter says:

    Thank you. Loved your letter. It made my day. Let’s hope it is read by our President, but I’m afeared …

  • Gerrie Pretorius Pretorius says:

    Well said!

  • Wilhelm van Rooyen says:

    Well done Branko. It’s right to push back on Mr FixFokol, but the true indictment is on the president – he has appointed Mr FF, so he has to accept responsibility for FF’s dismal performance. Failing to act against FF and the other delinquents on your list, logically means Ramaphosa is failing in his duty to all South Africans. Many of us had such high hopes when he was first elected, but I must say he’s been quite the dissapointment too.

  • William Kelly says:

    Take him to court now. Why wait?

    • Craig King says:

      The trouble is it would take a decade to get him into the dock and then another ten years of appeals. All the while he will be paid a full ministerial salary followed by a lovely fat pension and then when he crosses the great divide he will get a state funeral while the ANC laughs at our stupid faces.

      Still we have a wonderful Constitution that ensures our safety and justice for all. More wine waiter.

  • CG Gardner says:

    Our country needs more of these accountability master pieces. Raising the standards to Intellectual debates and fact finding will go a long way.

  • David Bertram says:

    Dear Editor may I take this opportunity to say how much I enjoyed reading this. Well done!

  • Helen Lachenicht says:

    When good people do nothing, evil will prevail! The despicable apartheid government have nothing on the ANC, who have betrayed their own people. Smuts once said South Africa is in such a dangerous place, only God can save us but all (South Africans) can help. I personally believe in miracles and have not lost hope 🌻

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Fikile is number 2 to Jacob Zuma for the Sunday Times prestigious award of “Mampara of the Week” and the Zapiro cartoons can’t keep up with his antics.

  • Justin Hall says:

    Great piece, the fool needed to be called out.

    • Rachelle Seymore says:

      Well said Mr Brkic. And our president tolerates such under-achievement? Talking of Ukraine, could we ever wish for a leader such as theirs. Not in our wildest dreams!

  • Laurence Erasmus says:

    Excellent reply to an arrogant and useless patronage beneficiary who is unable to fix fokol.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    I thought his reply contained too many big words and phrases
    Are we sure he was not hacked by a wordsmith ?

  • Stephen Gant says:

    Well said Mr. Brkic!

  • Gareth Hayton says:

    Wow. Brilliant summary of incompetence. The scary thing is you could do it for most of the ministers in cabinet.

  • Steven Burnett says:

    Razzmatazz’s huge ego going after Stephen Grootes and calling him a gutter journalist could be the biggest blunder here, he is no hack. The universal respect he gets from SAFM callers on his show is incredible, and his work there, here, TV and elsewhere is immensely appreciated by the general public.

    I wonder if Mr FixFokol has a thick enough skin to leave this matter now and take the hint to actually do his job, or if his speech writer who did the last one is furiously tearing out hair now.

    • Joe Irwin says:

      Unfortunately Mr FF is not capable of doing his job. He has had a number of cabinet positions and failed miserably in every one.

  • Change is Good says:

    I think the threat of court will will keep FF in check. His narrative is so embecilic and has proven to not work for the ANC anymore. State Capture has been unmasked, why do they persist. The citizens of this country are so tired of incompetent government. It is everyone’s responsibility in the next election to vote for opposition parties to once and for all remove untalented South Africans from the cabinet, when there are clearly many who will do a better job serving the people.

  • Bruce Q says:

    What a brilliant repost to that useless man’s rambling diatribe at Mr Grootes’ excellent piece.
    It’s long past time more of these hard hitting articles are written to and about these worthless individuals who profess to be “leaders” of our poor, benighted country.
    Mr FixFokol has no shame.
    Alas few of his ANC colleagues (they call themselves “comrades”) have any shame either.
    God alone can help us now.

  • David Mark says:

    Fantastic response for us readers. Mbalula will probably not read past his photo, which would be a shame, but it’s clear the minister is more interested in his fabrications than looking critically on his works and despairing.

    The ANC is like Ozymandias, except their statue is but a day old – corruption, ineptitude, and cadre construction resulted in the self-aggranding work never being finished properly.

  • Roy Haines says:

    Thank you for a brilliant and factual retort to Mr FF’s letter that obviously wasn’t written by him!
    Whoever did write it should be ashamed of themselves.

  • André Pelser says:


  • Stef Viljoen Viljoen says:

    Hehehehe, loved it. A real spanking for the laaitie. He makes me think of an incompetent bully whose actions are not having an effect on the victims and then tries to do it with childish insults. Good luck to the poor ANC trying to dig itself out of its mess with this caliber of leader.

  • Simon D says:

    Fantastic summary (of only a little bit actually) showing how useless Fokkol Mbublahblah is. Possibly one of the biggest talkers and useless walkers.

    Whatever happened to his Dubai trip and the tracksuits tender when he was minister of sport. So laughable that ONE person can be minister of sport, police and transport when they’re so useless. Boggles the mind at the arrogance of the ANC’s cadre deployment programme. Putting genuinely useless, unemployable, failing people into top positions. RIP ZA.

    • Brian Cotter says:

      Cyril used to run the cadre programme, and still does. So what has Fikile got on Cyril so he is still a minister. He is every cartoonists dream model.

  • Russ H says:

    The man is a shambolic incompetent blusterer. He is a serial failure. Dunning Kruger effect in persona!
    Words fail. He could not manage a packet of crisps. Shocking that he has a cabinet position. This proves that the ANC is utterly intellectually bankrupt.

  • Bernie Meyer says:

    Excellent reply to a bunch of drivel by a complete idiot. It was probably not even written by himself, considering the “quality” of his writing in the quoted tweet.

  • Thomas Cleghorn says:

    Personally speaking I didn’t think that it was Stephen Grootes best work, his questions were clearly designed to get a raise but wow, what a nerve it touched.
    It is your history Fikile, the litany of failures that mars your credibility & competence as a minister. Purely your own (in)actions.

  • Peter Dexter says:

    Excellent journalism! We’ll done! What I don’t understand is why the ANC keep the incompetent cabinet ministers in place?

  • Helen Swingler says:

    Bravo, Mr Brkic.

  • Johan Buys says:

    I think CR keeps these people in cabinet so that they can make fools of themselves very publicly instead of connive and undermine him in the back rooms. Pity about what that does to their portfolios.

  • Tim Price says:

    It appears that the Surve “media empire” has been enlisted to smear the DM today. Even the headlines look defamatory to me. I wonder if Mbalula’s rant and the whining of the IOL’s genuine gutter journalists are connected?

  • Robert Mitchell says:

    Well said. I suppose you could do the same for all the cabinet ministers!
    I wonder just how much work they actually do, for the public I mean, not buying cars for themselves!

  • Garth Kruger says:

    For me the unfortunate part of having someone who is intellectually challenged in cabinet is it perpetuates the narrative that people of colour are incompetent. The same way BEE being law confirms that because they cannot compete on a level playing field, people of colour need a leg up on the rest. If you keep it up long enough it becomes a self fulfilling prophesy i.e. look at Mbaks therefore everyone is cabinet is like him. We should have had the very best people in the country in cabinet, not those who bring a voting block along (like Stella Abrahams/Transkei). A very sorry state of affairs that is costing our country dearly.

  • Sue Grant-Marshall says:

    A pertinent, well written and excellent rebuttal by Branko Brkic of the shameless lies of Minister Mbalula. Let’s hope that anyone, everyone…who read the Minister’s attack on Stephen Grootes, will also read Mr Brkic’s response. Journalism is under attack world-wide. I think it’s time people like Minister ( I choke on the word) Mbalula were taken to court and forced to eat their words. You could crowd-fund for the top lawyers in the land to appear for DM.

  • Graeme J says:

    Branko’s superb article about “Minister” Mbalula says it all. I will gladly support crowdfunding DM’s legal fees against every single one of our absolutely useless ministers. They are all just beyond effing useless. Show me just ONE ministry that is delivering correctly and is not failing, hands-down… oh that’s right, there isn’t one.

  • Richard Fitzpatrick says:

    Very nicely written. Him and the rest of the clown show needs to be embarrassed at every opportunity presented to us.
    Seriously, where would any of them find employment outside of the ANC?

  • Karin Swart says:

    That’s telling him exactly as it is! Good article, thank you.

  • Gerrit Marais says:

    Must be wearing his girlfriend’s spectacles. Can’t really add anything else.

  • Pet Bug says:

    This person’s capacity and ditto for the entire ANC elite trying their hand at governing, is an apartheid legacy.
    Our problem might well be that, as some argue, Bantu Education was way better than what has been provided for the last quarter of a century, the emerging ANC cadre cohort will be much, much, much worse.

  • PETER BAKER says:

    Mbalula is just one of the total miscreants operating SA.. I recommend anyone who is really PO’d with this unbearable fact to take a look at an old vid of George Carlin in full flight talking about politicians ….. it hits true to home.. very sad in our case ….

  • Ian Callender-Easby says:

    This man is really an incompetent nincompoop. Classic Dunning-Kruger. Truly a reflection of the best quality the ANC is able to field…

  • Michael van Breda says:

    And that’s why I’m proud to be a DM Insider and generally a huge fan.
    Great example of leadership on the media space and standing up for your team, thank you.

  • Gavin Brown says:

    I almost feel sorry for him – it’s obvious he’s dong his best ! God help us !

  • Gavin Brown says:

    I almost feel sorry for him – it’s obvious he’s doing his best ! God help us !

  • Nick Griffon says:

    Brilliant summary of the uselessness of this clown.
    If it was not so sad it would have been funny.
    He is not employable in the private sector for a 10th of his current (legal) salary.

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    Thank you Branko, this needed to be said. There may be a lot more that could also be said – but this is an excellent start.

    I would like to see Mr Fix Fokol answer you (and your reply). But I’m doubtful he would want to expose himself to any more detailed, knowlegible and satiric replies, from you, which makes him look like more of a fool than he already is (?).

    How did he ever become our Secretary General… The ANC deserve him… to further make them look ludicrous and inept.

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