Shareef Blankenberg
Shareef Blankenberg

Real stars for Cabinet

So, President Kgalema Motlanthe announced his new Cabinet. A lot could be and had been said about both the old and the new Cabinet. But for today, I would like to concentrate on two specific Ministers: Emmanuel Nathi Mthethwa and Masenyane Richard Baloyi.

I would always think of Minister Baloyi as Comrade Rich (although I would never call him that in front of others!), whom I met in 2004, when I started working for ANC Caucus in Parliament. At that stage he was the ANC Whip for Public Service & Administration (National Assembly). He was also our Whip for Constituency Work, which means that he had direct control (on behalf of the Chief Whip) over the work performed by ANC MPs outside of Parliament.

I have rarely seen an MP working so hard! Minister Baloyi simply does not know what the word “rest” means. If he gets an idea at three o’clock in the morning and needs someone on his staff to do something in the morning, believe me, he would phone you at that time. If he needs to bounce something off you at eleven at night, he’d gladly do so. But over the last four years, ANC constituency work grew. And this could be proven by the continuous auditing process at our constituency offices. Every year, he dispensed teams all over the country to check if the information supplied by MPs is in fact true.

In Minister Baloyi we have someone who truly believes in the ANC; someone who knows that there’s a lot of work to be done and does not shy away from rolling up his sleeves and carrying the torch. Some people would describe him as a workaholic and slave-driver; I wish we had more like him! And I sincerely hope that his love for what he’s doing will rub off on the rest of the Cabinet.

My first real contact with Minister Mthethwa came when he assumed the Office of the Chief Whip of the Majority Party in February 2008. He is the kind of man who would give you a hearing, provided you really have something to say. There is no way you can bullshit this man!

The way in which he started a campaign to clean house at Caucus (not “dealing” with people, but sorting out our poor management systems) speaks of a willingness and an uncanny ability to make things work. He was often absent, because he had to do extensive work as an NEC member of the ANC, but was he still hands-on! I mean, here you have a man who often had to travel all over the country, but still knew what was happening at Parliament.

I’m sure most of you know what happens if clever men surround themselves with idiots, but in his case, it was a matter of brilliance attracting more brilliance. He surrounded himself with people he knew he could rely upon to drive the ship while he was out doing some other essential work.

With the current thinking of creating one public service and aligning all public administration systems, I am sure that Minister Baloyi is the perfect person to inspire confidence in public servants; and more critically, get the job done properly.

By the same token, we are all just too aware of the problems plaguing our police service. But I am quite sure that Minister Mthethwa, in the words of ANC President Jacob Zuma, would be equal to the task of sorting out our crime fighting agents and instil pride of place in our men and women in blue.

President Motlanthe has proven himself to be an excellent strategist with these two specific appointments. This is in no way detracting from other appointments, but to South Africa I wish to say: watch this space!