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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

SA’s leadership vacuum: Ministers AWOL while country collapses

'The problems we face are old and have worsened since the 2007 ANC national conference in Polokwane.'

As the economic hub of South Africa spirals into deeper water cuts, an Eskom unable to end load shedding, the rand hovering around $18, the Transnet strike causing cash shedding daily, government leaders – who are usually unafraid of cameras – are conspicuously silent.

It’s taken Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu a week to announce he will meet with Gauteng municipalities, while Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula is in Saudi Arabia with President Cyril Ramaphosa and five other ministers to attend the South Africa-Saudi Arabia Investment Forum.

ALSO READ: SA a ‘favourable, reliable and stable place’ to conduct business – Ramaphosa

Transnet strike

Despite the intervention of Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi yesterday, the Transnet strike will continue following the South
African Transport and Allied Workers Union and others’ rejection of a six percent increase.

The last time Deputy President David Mabuza was heard from was last Thursday, when he spoke at the National Township, Rural, and Informal Economy Symposium.

Ramaphosa is claiming a “phenomenally successful” official state visit to Saudi Arabia and $15 billion (about R275.4 billion) in investment agreements. However, he is returning to what appears to be a rudderless country and a leadership at odds with itself.

“Political accountability rests with the minister and fiduciary accountability with the DG [director-general],” said University of Pretoria politics lecturer Roland Henwood.

“Unfortunately, we lack the insight and responsible approach to governance to achieve the balance and good governance outcomes this is supposed to ensure. The president and ministers must travel and sell SA – ensuring investments and cooperation.”

The choice of people accompanying the president and their track records was important, he said.

Independent political analyst Sandile Swana was unimpressed.

“Because of well-established and inherent incompetence, Ramaphosa, [Minister of trade, industry and competition Ebrahim] Patel and Mbalula, cannot make any difference to the performance of the state whether they are abroad or in SA,” he said.

“The problems we face are old and have worsened since the 2007 ANC national conference in Polokwane. Unlike Singapore, China, Vietnam, Taiwan or South Korea, we do not appoint ministers based on proven knowledge, performance, track record and credible skills.”

‘Vested interests’

Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast of the department of history and political studies at the Nelson Mandela University, said tensions between DGs and political heads was an inevitable global phenomenon due to the symbiotic nature of the relationship, and control measures like the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act were “safeguards preventing politicians from getting involved in other operations of government, like the awarding of tenders”.

“As seen in most instances, this tension occurs when a political head has vested interests in terms of who gets the tender.

“In the case of the conflict, which broke out between Gordhan and the DG, one of the allegations levelled against Gordhan was that he interfered politically, when he should not have done so,” said Breakfast.

“But some refer to the SA Airways matter as a political intervention, because the minister was driving transformation.”

He described the DG as “the champion of service delivery who heads the administration in terms of procurement and quality control measures.

“It is unfair to give DGs illegal orders … because you are dealing with professionals – in theory, appointed on merit.”

– brians@citizen.co.za

NOW READ: High-level discussions on the cards as Ramaphosa arrives in Saudi Arabia

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