Opinionista Sisonke Msimang 20 May 2013

Nine signs that it might be time to quit

Even more so than usual, when the chips are down it appears that South African government officials are entirely unable to see the wood for the trees. Should you happen to be one of these officials, follow the guide and discover whether there’s still time to shape up or whether you should cut your losses and ship out before you’re scuppered.

Are you a senior official who is tired, stressed and overworked? Are you under attack by the media, and under fire from the public? This is not an easy position to be in. It can be really difficult, trying to figure out whether you should quit or whether you should ride out the storm. In other democracies it’s easier – you resign before you are fired. But here in South Africa, the president is a really special, magnanimous kinda guy. He can let you hang in the breeze for a really long time before making a decision. And sometimes that breeze is a little chilly. At times like these you need the advice of trusted friends. But sadly you may have lost many of these by now.

Luckily for you, I’m here for you, and I’ve developed a set of scenarios to work things out. If you can identify with three or more of the items on the list, then you should probably throw in the towel:

  1. Your enemies are nameless and faceless. But they aren’t fingerless – they have access to fax machines and email and regularly use these to leak documents in which you make startling written admissions that make you look guilty even though you aren’t.
  2. Entire campaigns have been built around your lack of performance and people are begging you to step down for the sake of the (choose one): (a) children, (b) women, (c) youth, (d) citizens of the country;
  3. You feel compelled to “clear your name” but then you fail to turn up for press conferences that you called yourself in order to clear said name.  This is because you are a very busy person, but no one wants to hear the truth these days. And the truth is, ministers are busy people.
  4. You get more calls from the media than you do from your own children.
  5. The most common adjective used to describe you is “embattled” and this is often followed by the phrase, “currently embroiled in”. This is far worse than before. You fondly remember the days when you were known as a “lacklustre performer”.
  6. Your name has been linked to people who sell drugs or have been convicted for selling drugs. You have been at pains to explain that you are not a drug dealer/seller/convict but people jump to conclusions just because your companion/wife/friend is one (see here, here and here for reminders of where this has happened to others)
  7. You are so busy that you often have to make last-minute changes to your itinerary and this sometimes results in a single trip costing upwards of R400,000. The nameless and faceless enemies have conspired with the media to wage a vendetta about this.
  8. Your companion is getting negative press. The media do not understand that just like nameless and faceless people, companion people have no sex and no gender.
  9. The country is up in arms just because you did a favour for a few overseas guests. Now you are suspended. For what? You have a good mind to resign before this whole thing even gets to disciplinary.

Ring any bells? Remember: three strikes and you’re most definitely out. But let’s be really blunt: if any one of the nine signs is applicable to your current circumstance then, if you had any honour whatsoever, you would have resigned long before taking this quiz. DM



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