This week Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini is likely to appear before yet another important body, this time the Constitutional Court, and we will be subjected to the same mediocrity that we have seen starkly displayed over the past few weeks.
She will hum and haw, she will obfuscate, she will play victim, she will pull out the race card, she will pretend to be a champion of transformation.
All this energy will be aimed at convincing South Africans that Dlamini is actually capable of leading her ministry and delivering on its mandate. But, really, over the past year we have seen and heard enough to know that what we have suspected for years – that Dlamini should not have been in the post in the first place – is true. The minister does not appreciate the law and has no idea what the constitution of South Africa behoves her to do in her position. We have an ignoramus in office.
She is not the only one. Our bloated cabinet is replete with bums on seats who have no clue why they are in their big offices or even why they attend cabinet meetings. They think they are there to say “yebo, baba” when the president or his bosses – the Gupta family – issue an order.
We live in an age of mediocrity. Take Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, for example. The ad hoc committee into the SABC recommended to the president: “The president should exercise his constitutional duties in relation to Minister Muthambi…[the] committee agree[s] that President Zuma should seriously reconsider [the] desirability of Muthambi retaining her portfolio.”
This is clear and unequivocal advice to the president: Fire her. Will he? Of course he won’t. Mediocrity is the glue that now holds the Zuma administration together. In this administration, mediocrity bubbles up to the top like poo in a dirty well.
No one gets fired here.
The defence minister smuggled a relative into the country and nothing happens. The state security minister consorts with rhino poachers and not even an inquiry is held or serious questions asked.
Instead, he gets to tell us that social media may be banned while peddling conspiracy theories without a single fact to back himself up.
You have to do something really terrible – such as to refuse a bribe from the Gupta family, as Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas did – to have even the tinge of getting fired get to you. If you are the likes of Berning Ntlemeza, Shaun Abrahamse and Tom Moyane – the three musketeers who brought sham charges against the finance minister last year – then you are guaranteed a job for life. As they say in the townships, kumnandi eSata Afrika (It’s great in South Africa).
But back to Bathabile Dlamini and the social grants. This is a scandal that is deep and wide and all-encompassing.
Its tentacles reach into the president’s office (why did the president’s personal legal advisor feel the need to advise the minister not to seek other solutions to this issue?) and beyond.
This scandal reminds us of the cynicism that has seeped into the Zuma administration and many of its leaders. Some 17 million grants are in danger of not being paid.
These are poor people who have no recourse in life – this grant is as good as it gets for them.
Yet Dlamini and her comrades chose to gamble with the livelihoods of these poor people.
There is a trend here. When it comes to poor people, the Zuma administration no longer cares.
When Marikana happened, with 34 mineworkers mowed down in an hour, the cabinet dragged its feet, refused to visit the bereaved and behaved in the most callous manner possible.
The horrific deaths of at least 94 Life Esidimeni patients seems to have outraged only the ANC’s Gauteng leadership. As we all saw at the state of the nation speech on February 9, when the national assembly speaker wouldn’t even allow a moment of silence in acknowledgement, this is an administration which has forgotten how to talk to and treat people.
It is in this context that the disregard for the law by Dlamini and her lack of care for the consequences of her actions should be seen.
All across the Zuma administration, her actions are mirrored.
So when you listen to Dlamini this week as she obfuscates and diverts and perhaps even lies, remember that you are not looking at an individual. You are looking at the Zuma administration and what it really represents.
It is an administration of mediocrity and failure. It is an administration that is clutching at straws – radical economic transformation, white monopoly capital – because it now realises that its days are numbered.
This week the ANC released policy documents hoping to renew itself in the run-up to its December 2017 conference. With the Zuma administration in office, it is unlikely people will continue to believe the ANC.