William Saunderson-Meyer
William Saunderson-Meyer

Helen loves Angie: How politics makes for strange bedfellows

What is not said is often more important than what is. The response of Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko to this week’s cabinet reshuffle is a case in point.

Mazibuko welcomed the exit of Communications Minister Dina Pule but found inexplicable the retention of Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Peterson, and Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu. The DA wanted the firing also of Collins Chabane, minister in the Presidency, Labour Minister Mildred Olifant, and State Security Minister Siyabonga Cwele.

So have you yet spotted the missing name, the royal game, that the DA won’t set its sights on? Here are some clues.

It’s a minister whose department has performed lamentably, the failure of which has incalculable negative knock-on effects. It’s a minister who has a cavalier attitude to court orders and whose department is rife with corruption. It’s a minister who’s been cowed by the unions that are running her sector into the ground.

That’s right, folks. It’s Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga. The Inkatha Freedom Party lamented her survival as a minister, so did Agang. Not the DA, which has a strange infatuation with her.

Not always so. Last year the DA shadow minister of basic education, Annette Lovemore, launched an impassioned attack on Motshekga’s performance, describing the situation in the sector as ‘tragic’. She questioned Motshekga’s use of EduSolutions, the company behind the failed delivery of textbooks and the target of a R320-million corruption investigation, and asked why Motshekga had continued to promote EduSolutions despite its ‘history of fraud and incompetence’.

Astonishingly, first out of the blocks to defend Motshekga was the DA national leader Helen Zille. In a public slap-down of the parliamentary DA, Zille said that firing Motshekga ‘would treat a superficial symptom, but leave the root causes unaddressed’, that the education crisis had taken many years to develop and that without Motshekga ‘things would probably go from bad to worse’.

That is not so different from Zuma’s shrugging off blame for the education crisis and simply laying it at the door of apartheid. As to the situation possibly deteriorating further if Motshekga were to be removed, that is of course the risk with any ministerial change.

The likely explanation of such DA protectiveness across normally bristling party divides is that it’s a tacit quid pro quo. Motshekga, whatever her faults, is pragmatic about not interfering when something is clearly working. This is critical for the DA-ruled Western Cape, if is to able to continue making the changes it believes necessary to improve educational outcomes in the province.

The parliamentary DA has since taken Zille’s lead, with a noticeably muted approach to Motshekga. When DA supporters last year voted their assessments of President’s Jacob Zuma’s cabinet, Motshekga was bottom of the class with an F. But when the DA’s annual ‘cabinet report card’ was issued, the symbol had been mysteriously upgraded to a far more respectable D.

Motshekga recently dismissed civil-society activists like Equal Education as a ‘group of white adults organising black African children with half-truths’. There was outrage, including from the Institute of Race Relations and the likes of former National Prosecuting Authority head Vusi Pikoli, objecting that this was racist. But the normally quick-to-the-jugular DA hasn’t murmured a word of criticism.

This week Business Day noted in an editorial that after Motshekga’s ‘dishonest attempt’ to discredit the demands of Equal Education, ‘unsurprisingly, Mr Zuma offered no public rebuke of his charge, however gentle … his failure to remove her from her portfolio when he reshuffled his Cabinet this week makes her continued tenure something much more serious than mere oversight from an absent-minded head of state’. Business Day appears not to have noticed that its favourite political party has been equally remiss in its oversight.

Not everyone in the DA buys this soft-pedalling. Former parliamentary leader Athol Trollip says that he is ‘gobsmacked’ at Motshekga’s omission from the list of ministers that DA wants sacked. He said that aside from her incompetence at a national level, Motshekga’s heralded intervention to sort out the chaotic Eastern Cape education department had been an ‘utter failure’.

But for now Angie is Helen’s squeeze and though they don’t like it, most DA public representatives will toe the line.

Tags: , , , ,

  • Zille and Zuma: A fading star, a black hole and the end of an era
  • The investigation into the ‘dangerous’ Mr Trollip
  • There’s no dignity in education without proper sanitation
  • Birds of a political feather
    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      The whole cabinet reshuffle appears to me to be a smokescreen for getting rid of Tokyo Sexwale. The interesting question is “Why?”

    • http://http//paulwhelanwriting.blogspot.com Paul Whelan

      Nothing unusual there then.

    • Judith

      Sexwale opposed Zuma’s re-election pure and simple

    • http://www.webmail.co.za nzs

      You forget that, part of this unusually “cosy” relationship between Angie and Ms High-cheek-boned and eccentric Helen ‘Port-a-loo-toilets’ Zille, is that Angie has always been the first within the ANC Women’s League (of which she is president) to lambaste the ANC for ‘sexist’ and ‘racist’ remarks against Zille. The case in point was when the MK vets had branded Zille a ‘wild whore’.
      Now Zille is simply returning the favour.

      It’s a strange world in politics.

    • Frans Verloop

      There is no mystery as to why Zuma kept her. She is president of the ANC Womens League, that is a moer of a big block of voters.
      Zille probably wants to keep her as the chief target in next year’s election. If she can convince most of the parents of black children why they are getting such a lousy education that is an even bigger number of voters.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      The reason that Angie functions poorly is precisely because she has two jobs, both Minister of Basic Education and Head of the Women’s League.

      But I think there is another reason Helen Zille wants no more enemies – there is a threatened split between Trollip and the Afrikaners, and Helen and the Brits of the DA/Anglo America and Randlord backed Progs

      The Thembu King says “the only King” Zuma cares about is the Zulu King, and is meeting with Trollip to discuss joining the DA.

    • Charlotte

      Across the front page of yesterday’s Cape Argus: ‘ANGIE’S LATEST BUNGLE.’
      On street posters: ‘ ANGIE FAILS MATRICS’.

      Despite their primary need for education being monumentally forsaken by the ANC, many young people today are rational, cognitive and forward thinking. We live in a digital, electronic, technological age. Our children have access to thinking above the constant stream of lies and incompetence fed to and enacted out on them.
      They know – as resounded often by Prof Jonathan Jansen, Helen Zille and Mamphela Ramphela, not to mention their own youth leaders and the public at large – how the ANC have failed them.
      Does Zuma still go along with the idea that keeping people poor and ignorant will secure another ANC vote? The ANC have sacrificed all in the name of their self-serving greed. Nothing has been spared. – not even our children. Everything has been forfeited at the hands of their selfish political expediency .

      Once again, Angie, protected by Zuma and knowing which side her bread is buttered (apparently all she knows or cares about) has catastrophically failed..
      Let’s hope there is a price to pay: that the Zuma-led ANC, who wont pay for the Nkandla disgrace (and even if Zuma falls from grace, doesn’t make another term and still retires stinking rich on our money) somehow gets to pay for his and Angie’s bungling at the expense of the country, and more particularly at the expense of our children.

    • Tofolux

      This is so funny and really smacks of dinner-table speculation and fear. When will the priviledged and apartheid advantaged stop being so obvious is their total rejection of our democratic govt. Their rejection of our majority govt is an everyday occurence since 1994. Wow, this clearly when they were so active in making sure that we did not get proper education, basic health or houses. And not they speak as if they are experts in running a country.

    • Skerminkel

      I hope “Lyndall Beddy” is a pseudonym, because if the police track her (him?) down, she will have some serious explaining to do about the strong stuff in her pipe.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      I don’t use pseudonyms – I am in the lucky position of no-one dependent on me any more, so I don’t have to hide away and can’t be intimidated.

      The “Thembu King” situation is hotting up with the “Royal Family”(?) asking the government to remove the King. I know of no precedent of a King being removed, but many of them being assassinated, especially by half brothers (including Shaka).

      If there was disagreement about a heir the tribe usually split – like Sol Plaatjies’ Barolong tribe had split into 4 a few generations before his birth.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      I told you so. Athol Trollip welcomed the Thembu King into the DA today.

    • mark

      @tofolux, here are the 8 characteristics of good governance:

      1) participatory
      2) accountable
      3) transparent
      4) equitable and inclusive
      5) efficient and effective
      6) follows the rule of law
      7) participatory
      8) consensus orientated

      Now you tell me where the ANC excells in all these areas because these define a democracy. Because under each bullet I can name countless examples of where your glorious government has failed dismally.

      The ANC may be elected through a democratic process, but there is no way you can defend their actions as being in line with good governance and the best interests of civil society.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      However, there is new information to factor into predictions. Nelson Mandela is apparently not terminal at all.

      If he recovers – where is he going to tell us he wants to be buried, at Qunu, or Mveso, or even somewhere else? He was born in Mveso, spent a few years of childhood with his mother and her relatives at Qunu, but actually spent most of his youth at the Thembu Great Place.

      Also will he support his family wanting Mandla deposed, or the “royal family” wanting the Thembu “King” deposed?

      I must admit to being confused about the “royal family” issue. Xhosa tribes had elders, not royal families, who made the decisions for the tribes. Your status an an elder was from age and experience not royal bloodlines.

    • Baz

      William keep the pot stirring especially, your recent “Helen loves Angie: How politics makes for strange bed fellows” Read it with great interest and totally love the response from certain commentators. Get us communicating. Thanks again for your articles that appear in other newspapers which I enjoy in reading. Carry on till the ink runs dry…..

    • Tofolux

      @Mark, all of what you described is enshrined in our Constitution. If my govt is not adhering to all of this and more, then clearly we have a constitutional crisis. Hence if this is the case (as you so willing propose) why then have you not made a case against this government in the Concourt? This advice comes at no-charge, hence I would advise you to proceed to the courts with your “evidence” and ask the Concourt to make a ruling.

    • Skerminkel

      @Lyndall Beddy, well done on the Trollip prediction!
      I was referring to Afrikaner vs Brit split in the DA. I suspect most Afrikaners (most everyone, for that matter) hardly know about Trollip. I suspect most think that Zille and Mazibuko are the DA and that they are our best hope – either as leaders or to force the ANC back onto the straight and narrow.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      The Afrikaner know about Trollip alright, the Brits in the DA don’t.

      But we are 9 months from a general election – there will be no split before that election. What happens after will depend partly on the results of that election.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      I have pointed out, many times before, that Americans, both Black and White, are totally ignorant of the history, geography, cultures, or religions of the rest of the world, including Africa and Asia and the Pacific Islands. The whole history of the second half of the 20th century demonstrates this ignorance.

      Simply put, in the context of South Africa, Americans don’t know the difference between our Homelands/Protectorates/Bantustans and the “Indian”only reservations of America’s Natives, or the Tribal Lands of Australia’s Natives.

      We have no “Blacks Only” or “Natives Only” Homelands – they are Xhosa only, or Zulu only, or Swazi only, or Basuto only, and what is more they were formed by the British during the colonial period, 100 years before apartheid.

      Americans would therefore not understand why a Zulu being appointed to supervise Xhosa chiefs in land policy in the Xhosa Homelands is not necessarily a good idea.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      ignorance is even in sitcoms, which we are force fed as “education” by SABC which only buys American programmes. In one I watched recently the Black American asks his son what he learned in school that day, to which the young boy replies:

      “Today we learned about Africa. Tomorrow we learn about Greece.”

      The father says:

      “Only one day for Africa? What did you learn about Africa?”

      The boy replies:

      “We learned there were pharoahs and pyramids in Africa”.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy


      The fight going on in one of the Mandela Trusts with the family wanting trustees removed to get a larger slice of the action for the Mandela family is another Americanisation.

      American law forbids Americans to make donations to foreign political parties, but allows donations to charitable trusts. Nelson Mandela closed down the anti-apartheid trusts like Defense and Aid overnight, and opened Mandela Trusts. All these details are in the book “White Lies: Cannon Collins and the secret war against apartheid” by Denis Herbstein.

      The Mandela Trusts are American type trusts, like the Lance Armstrong Trust, where the family of Armstrong/Mandela can get a slice of the action.

      Personally I would only donate to charities like the Red Cross or Doctors Without Borders; not to any trust where some undisclosed amount of the money can go to private individuals or families.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      This American Law allowing donations to overseas charities but not to political parties has also resulted in charities and NGOs developing as fronts for terrorists, jihadists and Islamic fundamentalists.

      Resulting in outcries about “ships carrying aid” (claimed to be “ships carrying weapons”) and “orphans being rescued from war zones” (claimed to be human trafficking) in the media.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      In his book “The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid is not Working” Robert Calderisi writes that every arms deal done by a newly developing African independent state was on the same format – the kickbacks were to raise funds for the winning political party in power, and the largest personal share went to the president.

      What are you going to do if the same happened in South Africa?

      Not that I believe for one minute you will ever be allowed to find out.