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Stephen Grootes’s spurious attack disguised as object...

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‘Stephen Grootes’s spurious attack disguised as objective criticism is gutter journalism’


Fikile Mbalula is the Minister of Transport.

Stephen Grootes is an embedded journalist who has sacrificed his journalistic ethos to the gutter and narrow political interests.

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.



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All Comments 47

  • I think merging his two Twitter aliases gives the most accurate description of the Honourable Mbalula:
    Mr Fix Fokol

  • Minister Mbalula, we did not have to read Grootes’s article to know that you are a blustering individual incapable of delivering. You would have served yourself better by keeping quiet and starting to work on your shortcomings, but you appear to be inept of doing so.

  • 2019-06-25: ‘Call me Mr Fix it’ – Mbalula vows to fix Cape Town trains (

    Still one of my favourite bits from Steven Grootes was this: “…during the run-up to the ANC’s Nasrec conference, (Fikile Mbalula) changed his Twitter profile to “Mr Fear Fokol”. When he became transport minister, he changed it again to Mr Fix.

    “Many would claim that so far he has, in the real world, Fixed Fokol.””

    Classic Stephen Grootes.

    Mr Fix Vokol what are you not planning to do today? 🙂

    • Your Mr Fix Vokol description of our transport minister is 100% accurate. He is getting flak from fellow cabinet ministers because he isn’t capable of doing his job. How he has managed to remain a cabinet minister is anyone’s guess.
      His response to Stephen Grootes is well written, if it’s his work, which based upon his track record is questionable.

  • The Minister doth protest too much. Blustering social media outpourings will no doubt follow (talk about gutter press).

  • History will absolve you or convict you, let’s wait and see. Another quote that would be applicable is “Methinks he protests too much” or something like that.

  • Dear Minister, I am going to give you the benefit of the doubt about your (g)utter nonsense called “gutter journalism”. I don’t think you arrived at this concept yourselves. The credit should probably go to Bell Pottinger. Your response is indicative of being stepped on a sore toe. Mr Grootes was just politely telling you how incomprehensively incompetent you and the DoT are. Your trains are not running. No Rail Policy can remove that fact. Rail Police will be more effective. Your railway stations have no doors, windows, roofs, or gutters. Pun intended. Perhaps you should rather listen more, talk (and write) less, and find ways to deliver. Mr Grootes also politely said that your boss, the honorable President, finds it difficult to point out that you are not achieving the targets on your performance agreement. Perhaps you should see Mr Grootes’ piece as encouragement to proof us all wrong. This is only measured in delivery, trains running on time, functioning ports and harbours, potholes being fixed, railway safety and security, and traffic officers who are not corrupt. Pull yourself out of the gutter of non-delivery Sir.

  • Oh dear! Minister Mbalula, oh dear! You write in this impassioned OTT personal opinion of Stephen Grootes’s article: The Still Unbreakable Mr Mbalula: that ‘ I will not defend myself against falsehoods…’ yet that is exactly what you have done. You write that Grootes has, ‘ peddled lies’ and written a ‘ false story’ and you have forcibly and aggressively defended yourself. It’s the exact opposite of what you say you will NOT do. So, what to believe in future from you Minister Mbalula, the recently crowned ” Mampara of the Week” by the Sunday Times?

  • English words cannot adequately do justice in expressing complete disgust at Mr Mbalula’s entire career. From memory and without detailed research the lowlights that I recall are:

    1) As a youth league member Fikile was Brett Kebble’s owned little lap dog. In exchange for copious amounts of blue label Johnny Walker, Brett had his way with the youth league wanna bee’s.
    2) As Sports Minister – Fikile exchanged Olympic team clothing contracts for Dubai family holidays.
    3) As police minister, Fikile allegedly assisted in the big bucks grabber contracts attempt to derail Cyril at the 2017 Nasrec circus. Otherwise as police minister , failure after failure after failure is Fikile’s legacy (not much improved by Cele it must be pointed out).
    4) As transport minister – ‘oh my f***’! Railway collapse, pothole infestation, license testing and issuing failures of catastrophic proportions.

    Fikike’s blabbering against Grootes article, might have just mentioned a success or two that he had achieved?

    Other than blue lights and expensive liquor bills Fikile has none – zero, nada nothing.

  • Mbalula, lovely list of plans, blueprints, and commissions. Whilst you lot take 6 years to figure out whet to do with the rail system it’s been stolen to a point l, some believe, beyond the point of no return. This is only one example. Nothing has been done. There are no ANC achievements. Don’t come with Gautrain, that’s privately driven.

  • “A stupid man’s report of what a clever man says can never be accurate, because he unconsciously translates what he hears into something he can understand.”
    Bertrand Russell.

    “In politics, stupidity is not a handicap.”
    Napoleon Bonaparte.

    “Stupidity isn’t punishable by death. If it was, the {ANC would have no-one representing it in parliament.}”
    …with apologies to Laurell K. Hamilton.

    “Sometimes I wonder whether the {ANC} is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
    … apologies to Laurence J. Peter.

    GO FOR IT MINISTER MBALULA!! Please keep posting your thoughts. They are truly enlightening.

  • “My constituency is the ANC in particular and South Africa in general.”

    Ummm…it’s supposed to be country over party. Oops.


  • No doubt Mbalula had someone write his response to Mr Grootes article.
    He remains an Idiot that encompasses the cANCer thought process. I think we are in more trouble in this country than we thought we were in .

  • While you here minister …… can you let all the other ministers know that there is a food crisis on the ground out here…….. thanks

  • Mr Fix Fokol under whose watch has the country’s rail infrastructure being decimated? Your actions in this regard precede your reputation that you fix fokol!

  • ‘I will not defend myself against falsehoods’ – so then why write this unhinged tirade ? A lie repeated often enough becomes the truth: this seems to come directly from the ANC playbook! Except it hasn’t worked and few trust the government. Write an article about your achievements because they are really not very obvious.

  • Mabula, everything you touch just stops working. for someone who will not defend himself against falsehoods, you did a good job of showing how weak you really are with this babble.
    perhaps if you put South Africa first and ANC second you might, only might earn a modicum of respect!

  • Your opinion Minister. Actually I think Stephen Groottes hit the nail on the head. Just look a the state the Departments you have been in charge of and are in charge now. The truth hurts.

  • My own experience with the Department of transport do not reflect the success that the Minister refers to. I regularly drive across the country for the past five years or so and potholes, road maintenance and police controls are severely lacking. Licencing is difficult too.

  • What on earth is an embedded journalist Mr Mabula? Is there a war on that I somehow didn’t notice??? Or course we know that anyone critical of the ANC clowns “embedded” in the war between the incompetent and the competent. Bell Pottinger’s legacy lives on..

  • This is a well written piece, credit where it is due. It didn’t leave me with much in the way of new substance though, just a coherent denial.

    I am going to try and keep an open mind here, but am going to need someone to explain the tweet to me.

    How was it clearly satire?
    Landing in Ukraine, could mean physically being there, or being in a place that somehow resembles it. The satirical angle would need a lot more context to be clear.

    If it was a metaphor, then clearly the gutter journalist missed it. A golden opportunity to explain it, and shame the journalist was missed here then.

    I’m a bit lost on this one, it would be great if razzmatazz could help me out here, but he’s probably not a DM subscriber so can’t comment. I trust someone else can clear up the confusion.

    I’ll listen on the radio (where we do hear both these players often)

  • This moron makes me really angry. About 50 people have been killed on SA roads over this weekend. This is either due to unskilled drivers or bad road conditions and that loudmouth claims that he is doing his job.

  • “He is not the first to mount a campaign casting aspersions on my integrity and a call to question my competence as a minister.” Indeed correct and Grootes won’t be the last by a long chalk.

  • JZ was previously the most awarded Mampara of the Week apparently Fikile has taken over this prestigious title. I believe his Twitter handle should now be Professor Mampara Fikile.

  • Boy is this guy infantile!. Note he resorts to calling him “embedded” what a *****. Just shows the paucity of “talent” of our Lords and Masters , the ANC. Never failing to play the race card . And of course clichés . I’m surprised the he didn’t “reject it with the contempt is deserves” Must be going to creative writing classes. Competence as a Minister? Sir you have spouted more hot air than most ministers I’ll give you that. What time did you say the next train is due?

  • I wonder who wrote this for him as it is to well written. It is impossible for a blithering idiot like him to express himself so clearly. Yes ! A nerve was touched, me thinks he doeth protest too much.

  • Dear Mr. Mbalula, if you should ever reach the level of honesty, decency and journalism as Mr. Groottes has – then you can talk. But for the time being I fear you are not up to his standard!

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