So Public Enterprises Minister Barbara Hogan has done it again. After a shocking indifference across the ANC on the Chancellor House/Eskom scandal, she has stood up again to be counted. For those who missed it, this is where the ANC, with a 25% shareholding in Hitachi, is set to fleece you and I through the horrendous electricity hike which will eventually fund the ANC to run another extravagant election campaign and remain in power ad infinitum. She must be commended for pointing out the obvious — that there is a conflict of interest if the ruling party is to benefit in any way from the decisions of Eskom, of which it is essentially the sole shareholder.
How refreshing to meet a minister who has shown pure courage of her convictions in going against the grain. Her stature is quietly growing as one of the few ministers who can speak her mind in an environment that is intoxicated by a mindless closing of ranks and the habitual trading of insult instead of an exchange of ideas. Indeed in an environment where people are asked to shut down their intellect lest they are targeted for “redeployment”, it must take some courage indeed for a minister not to fear stating so many truths. In a sense this is the kind of politician that South Africa needs. In the midst of shady deals, unprincipled leadership and “the do as I say, not as I do” cancer, we need more of the likes of Hogan to bring our country back from the precipice.
So how refreshing, let’s examine her meteoric rise against growing ANC complacency:
As health minister she was the first to openly reject the Aids denialism of the ANC government at the time. It boggles the mind why she was then removed so fast from that post and replaced by Motsoaledi when the entire health fraternity was breathing a sigh of relief at the removal of the late Tshabalala-Msimang. As a result Motsoaledi has been unable to introduce anything new but broken promises to doctors on their parlous pay and has spent too much time praise-singing for Zuma’s new “leadership from the front on HIV and Aids” — another broken promise given the Sonono baby saga.
When the South African government mindlessly refused the Dalai Lama entry into South Africa, she spoke out even if it meant a slap on the wrist. This was one time, when in my view, it was quite acceptable to speak out of turn and expose the ANC’s embarrassing sell-out position on a matter that saw the Nobel laureates in our country pull out of an international conference meant to promote peace in the world. Hogan will go down in history as a minister who showed principle when many, who were equally embarrassed, remained quiet and afraid to raise their voices.
When the ANC Youth League and Black Management Forum invited her to enter the Maroga fray at Eskom, she resisted. It seems that what caused Bobby Godsell to quit was the president attempting to override Hogan’s stance of non-interference. You cannot, even as the mighty government, appoint a board of directors and then turn them into puppets. Hogan, when history recounts the facts, would have acted from principle again much to the annoyance of the power-drunk brigade within the ruling party.
One of the most heated debates within the tripartite alliance was the saga surrounding the appointment of Transnet chief executive and the ambition of suspended executive Siyabonga Gama to ascend to that position . Hogan was in the middle of it again. While unprincipled ministers spoke out of turn lobbying for a pseudo-candidate — someone who was not even shortlisted by the Transnet board — Hogan kept her cool. She stood her ground and refused to be bullied. This was in stark contrast to Siphiwe Nyanda who spoke of what now appears to be self-interest given the revelation that his company benefited from Transnet tenders. Time will reveal why Jeff Radebe said boldly “some of us will make sure he is appointed”. Is there some benefit flowing to him as well? As in every cloud Zuma was the silver lining here calling both ministers and the so-called Sandton ANC branch to order for pretending to be employment agents. But you have to admire that Hogan has, up to now, not yielded to the bullying — let historical records show that she remained firm.
The recent conflict-of-interest utterance by Hogan must rank as the most direct challenge to the blurring of party and state. Let’s remember that she was the first one to state that parastatals, which are not performing, must be disposed of. Because of that piece of reality she was one of the first ministers to be summoned to Luthuli House. In many ways her very courage to speak out also gave the country a glance at who is really running the country between Zuma and Mantashe. Now the president has instituted a commission to establish what we already know about why parastatals are failing — cadre deployment and political interference.
Would it not be nice to have more ministers guided more by their oath of office and less by their petty party machinations? Would it not be a breath of fresh air to have ministers who do not take unprincipled positions that violate the Constitution and undermine citizens’ confidence in government actions? I am not holding my breath.