The diatribe meted out by Stephen Grootes in his article demonstrates how deeply entrenched he is in gutter journalism that relies on innuendo and lies to advance his self-serving agenda. I would ordinarily not respond to criticism about my work because that comes with the job. However, blatant lies and embedded journalism disguised as public discourse require a response.
The article is a response to: “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.
The depth of his naivety and desperation to find fault with anything I do is evidenced by his shameless embrace of untruths, passing them off as fact. This is gutter journalism that is contemptuous of the values of objectivity, fairness and reporting truthfully, which the profession has embraced since time immemorial.
The peddling of lies about a Cabinet committee meeting, where I was allegedly kicked out, demonstrates the dearth of ideas and the extent of desperation of Mr Grootes and his ilk, to project me as incompetent. At no stage did I ever attend a Cabinet meeting unprepared, nor was I kicked out for whatever reason. President Cyril Ramaphosa runs a tight ship and robustly engages ministers on matters before Cabinet. As a leadership collective which exercises executive authority of the country together with the President, ministers are required to adequately engage and contribute on all matters before Cabinet.
It is rather unfortunate that a false story that is intended to pit Cabinet ministers against each other is given so much traction. There has never been any animosity or contestation between myself and the minister of public enterprises. I reject any suggestion to the contrary with the contempt it deserves. This is a narrative on whose crest Mr Grootes rides, to give credence to his shallow perspective.
We have brought before Cabinet, among many other submissions, a national rail policy that has been in the making for six years, which was subject to robust scrutiny. We delivered a Rail Policy that for the first time outlines the long-term vision for rail in the country. The exciting policy statements and structural changes mooted are not a pipe dream, but a blueprint for positioning rail as the backbone of the transport system.
Mr Grootes talks about a constituency in the context of ANC factions. In his own eyes, I must be sacrificed because I belong to none of the factions, therefore no one will plead a case should I be removed. In that context, I do not have a “constituency”. He is correct that I do not belong to any faction. My constituency is the ANC in particular and South Africa in general.
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.
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.
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.
Those who have been critical of us on driver’s licence matters, including the AA and Outa, have constructively engaged with us. We have gone a step further and commissioned a study to look at the most viable time frame to renew driver’s licence cards.
We have made significant inroads in addressing the challenges faced by motorists on driver’s licence matters. We have made progress in tackling the backlog and rolled out online payment services. We have opened two new driver’s licence testing centres in Gauteng that operate seven days a week. This has been reinforced by the Gautrain using its stations to renew driver’s licences.
References to the SACC and Santaco on a matter that I publicly apologised for, is nothing short of opportunistic and grappling at straws. My relations with the taxi industry are cordial and we continue working together not only to find lasting solutions to the challenges of the industry.
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.
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.
In the words of Fidel Castro, I dare say, “History will absolve me”. DM
From the editor: Daily Maverick believes it is important for readers to read the unfiltered views of the esteemed, honourable Minister Mbalula. We shall consider an appropriate response.