An open letter to the minister of communications
Dear Retired General,
When I moved into a small flat in the suburb of Mowbray in the Cape back in 1998, when you were still in the army, I got to learn of a company called Dial-a-Bed. They way it works it can even be understood by people who may not possess too many university degrees and military qualifications as you do. You actually phone these guys and they deliver a bed of your choice — it is that simple. You should try it sometime, it can save the taxpayer quite a lot of money and you the trouble of swapping from one five-star hotel to the next. With your tenders exceeding millions of rands I am sure you can afford to donate a bed to the taxpayer. The same taxpayer that you are allegedly fleecing through your deals with Transnet.
You can imagine the banana republic that people overseas will think we are if our ministers cannot even afford a mere bed. I am reliably informed that since I first ordered my bed all those many years ago, these people have improved their services. With the dawn of cellphones, which you so kindly have made cheaper to use, they can actually send you a picture of your bed so you can see it before you take delivery. I am quite sure that you do not operate a pay-as-you-go so you wouldn’t mind receiving a lot of MMSs in full colour. So when all is said and done a simple cellular call can save you the indignity of spending months in a hotel no matter how many stars it may have — it remains quite inhabitable if you ask me. Having worked for government before, I know the indignity of those recycled breakfasts in these hotels — it’s truly appalling — how you managed to tolerate it all, month after month since your were sworn in, all because public works had not bought you a bed boggles the mind. These guys — I am reliably informed can deliver even at night — so while you are listening to the president’s totally boring speech someone could be delivering your bed at a ministerial residence making sure that you never again have to use the soiled linen of Cape Town’s hotels.
I think there are many people, especially those that have gone for military training, who are baffled that a soldier by training could not find a place to lay his head in a mansion and instead insisted on an overrated five-star hotel? Does carrying the title “retired general” mean that you forget all the endurance training? At least it seems the hotels did attempt to give you some kind of a discount that you went on to squander on the mini bar with all those mini brandies for Jackson Mthembu — the only cogent explanation for allegedly exceeding the booze limit four times. We know you are friends. I digress.
It did not start here did it general. Not so long after accepting the inexplicable appointment to become a minister of communication, You saw it fit to spend taxpayers’ money on two identical 7 Series Saloons which some of us have to work hard to afford. You could not possibly be satisfied with a lesser model. And I understand perfectly. As someone who had to drive army tanks with no decent air-conditioning and no view it can be expected that the day you get a chance you will go all out. After all you have trained so hard to enjoy the fruits of your toil. I understand fully that your saloon must have satellite TV to check out the competition as well as an advance satellite phone — ensuring that you are never out of communications with the commander-in-chief. Who knows one day he may call you while he is overseas — owing to his limited schooling — for you to read him the headline of the Sunday Times on yet another of his gifts to the world.
Your intervention at the SABC was of grand style and military prowess. I expected no less General, you are a man who still has army pomp and ceremony still ringing in his head. That is the only explanation for the huge payout that was given to the then CEO, Dali Mandela, I mean Mpofu. Sorry to get my lines crossed there. The fellow was handsomely paid for buggering up the place. He is a good man but 14 million rands to produce a billion rand loss — the mathematics of it all does not add up. And as if that was not enough we then find out that out of the many, many executives in the Southern Hemisphere you go on and appoint and old relic of the old SABC — someone who just happens to be mentioned in a forensic report — to replace the affable Mpofu. It can’t be true general. This royal mess will see the demise of that broadcaster. I mean under Ben Ngubane things can only be expected to go from bad to worse. What board chairperson worth his salt countenances a situation where a CEO is appointed for him and he sees nothing wrong. I must hand it to you general. You did this military style: appoint a commander-in-chief and the troops shall go marching in. Good for you.
Everyone knows that you know bugger all about your portfolio. Let me tell you something right here, you are not alone. In fact with the standards of the current administration you are a model minister. Look at Mama Angie — her first big priority was to print a matric certificate that is easy on the eye. This motivated many matriculants to study harder so they can be so rewarded with this certificate. That explains why so many of them so enjoyed the exam that they want to write it again at the end of this year just to get another one of those pretty certificates; look at Grand Mama Mayende Sibiya, she really did not need to know anything about her ministry and all is going mighty fine there — she didn’t even have to issue a statement welcoming the ruling of the equality courts in favour of all the women of South Africa in that silly case involving Malema. Things are mighty fine there, it’s all on auto-pilot.
Look at Bra Collins, the fellow who is supposed to be monitoring you, he went off to shop with a credit card of the state … so I really don’t blame you for not pretending to utter anything sensible in your portfolio — not necessary at all. You might just upset the markets. Those guys don’t play, they make billions — they will take you to the cleaners if you think you can address them like a battalion of some army you used to command. Sad you can’t ask Mama Ivy (may her soul rest in peace) she would tell you that they took her to court for uttering senseless things which she knew nothing about and won. So even if a big scandal breaks in your industry where an ex-CEO earns a million rand a month under the shareholders’ nose — such matters are better left alone. No wonder it was more prudent for you to debate publicly and out of turn your preference for a CEO of Transnet where of course you have no business interests you are aware of. Bugger the fact that there is another minister there who seems to know what she is doing. God forbid that Transnet is in your pocket and that the whiff of corruption that seems to surround your every mention in that light turns out to be true — it would be a sad day general.
Now back to the important matter of your accommodation. You see what I told you about ministers not doing their jobs? Now look at this fellow cabinet member in charge of public works. First he makes the late Manto stay in a hotel while he evicts Cope MPs from their homes … and then also puts Winnie Mandela — icon of our struggle — out to pasture. We all know that Winnie hardly attends Parliament, but to actually not give her a home in a parliamentary precinct is a bit disrespectful don’t you think? I mean how on earth did a junior MP like Buti Manamela overtake Winnie in the queue? I mean this is someone who was in the Mandela cabinet and even got fired nogal — something unheard of in the ANC. It can’t be true that she must stand in a queue. But hey with communists now in charge of the ANC and so much deployment mania going on … that is how the cookie crumbles.
Come now … make that call. So you can enjoy the new bed as much as you enjoy those fruits of your hard work, otherwise called sheer driving pleasure.
Onkgopotse JJ Tabane