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Okay, so the president isn’t superwoman!

It is important, in any democracy, to have a series of checks and balances on the executive. An important segment of these safeguards is the media, from whom the people seek both information and guidance.

It is just as important that these “safeguards” don’t lose sight of the bigger picture:

  • South Africa, 13 years after apartheid was laid to rest, is a full-blown democracy, achieving growth and ranked among the world’s leading nations when it comes to religious tolerance.
  • South Africa has a Constitution regarded as one of the finest in the world.
  • South Africa has an independent media, judiciary and implemented legislation to counter those who would spread hate.
  • Hard to deny, then, that in the short distance travelled, we owe the ANC and the two presidents who have led them a huge debt of gratitude.

    If you’ve read my blog, I too have been hard on the government in respect of Zimbabwe, health, crime and the many other areas that demand attention.

    I iterate here, the needs of the people must supersede those of old comrades or the party.

    I do, however, strongly disagree with those who hold the view that this president, in this age of information where every blemish is analysed and beset with these issues, has suddenly become an “aberration in the history of black morality”.

    While I deeply respect the author, his many achievements and the brilliant paper he wrote the article for, it is, in my opinion both unfair and unkind.

    The same applies to the article that appeared on IOL asking: “What has happened to Mbeki?”

    Before we answer that question, let’s ask ourselves whether 15 years ago, if presented with the hiring and firing of Manto, crime and Zimbabwe as the major issues of our time, we wouldn’t have bitten off the hand offering them to us?

    I don’t propose to speak for a president far more eloquent than I will ever be (I’m more your average “force multiplier”… Why? Because craaime are preffalent and I are going to frow those Zimmies wif a klip).

    I would, however, submit that my reading — for that is all this is — of the current situation is that the president is managing the overall situation perfectly well, thank you.

    However, (any of you who listen to “die landdros” reading out his judgement know that there is nothing worse than “howeffer”), he is allowing perceptions to build where they are totally unnecessary.

    Zimbabwe and our minister of health are primary examples. In Zimbabwe, the ANC found a home and a comrade in Robert Mugabe when the chips were really down. We all have short memories. At the height of apartheid, Mugabe was lashing out at the military power south of him — us.

    He was, in addition, offering support to the ANC without regard for the consequences to his country.

    Accordingly, while it is correct for us to say that this man has to go, and I mean GO NOW, it is simplistic to expect this president and for that matter this party to just abandon him. (But go NOW anyway, Mr Mugabe.)

    Moreover, in accordance with the president’s thinking on his much-cherished African renaissance, whereby Africans resolve the problems of Africa and work hand in hand on social and economic issues, the approach adopted in Lusaka would certainly strike a chord with him.

    While the media may disagree with this approach, this does not make them right and him wrong. (But go NOW anyway.) If our president believes there is a better way, we owe him constructive criticism, playing the ball, not the man.

    The president should always be entitled to count on his people to take a long hard look at an issue before judging him either way. In terms of history, his dealings with Zimbabwe in terms of the period we are speaking about is but the blinking of an eye. Who knows, his approach may be proven right.

    I thought Orlando Pirates, under this manager, would sweep all before them. Who am I to tell the president how to deal with Zimbabwe?

    He has my support until the day he does a Cherie Blair speech (I am not a superwoman … I’m just like you … in front of the world’s television cameras). Then I’m afraid …

    The perception is that cronies are untouchable when it could just as easily read: the ANC and the government, mindful of the sacrifices made by this Zimbabwean government on behalf of South Africa’s struggle for freedom, are intervening to safeguard the smooth transition or continuation (heaven forbid) of power in our neighbour, in the best interests of all players in the region.

    Loyalty and pragmatism as opposed to cronyism.

    And loyalty plays a big part in the life of our president. He has lived a life of struggle and taken this country forward where lesser or bitter men would have been trapped within their own resentment.

    It presents strongly in his dealings with the Mantogate issue.

    If you read his letter to the ANC at, his disappointment in the manner in which Madlala-Routledge conducted affairs in the press hurt the president deeply. He believed that these issues should have been dealt with by the party that, let’s face it, had heaped rewards on this deputy minister.

    Many, however, feel that for the ANC to grow it must be more inclusive and allow a far wider proportion of the party into decision making.

    Lest we forget, during apartheid, ANC structures, for safety reasons, were compelled to keep information within the inner circle of those most trusted. Today, the necessity therefore may no longer exist.

    Regardless, we are confronted with a minister of health whose credibility is under severe attack.

    Whether the allegations are right or wrong, the media believe the president has to act quickly or risk the perception that the minister is untouchable.

    The president for his part is standing by her where expedience and callousness, the very things he’s being accused of, should dictate that she exit immediately stage left.

    He is not cold and uncaring; if anything, he is too caring and loyal to those who have placed their futures with his. What he is, at present, is grouchy. Who isn’t? (I support Derby County and Pirates!)

    In the case of Zimbabwe, as in the case of the minister, the president has to convey his rationale better to the people.

    In the case of the minister of health, the time for suspension has come. It will relieve the pressure on all concerned.

    Ministers the world over have rebounded from crisis, but the longer this goes on, the more damaging it becomes to our president.

    A president who will be remembered fondly by history and by me, unless he breaks down and does the Cherie Blair speech.

    While much is made of the remarks made by an angry and hurt president regarding the Frere Hospital incident, not much is made of the context within which they were made, nor, it seems, has much investigation gone into the background on how he was briefed on the situation.

    You don’t trash a person who has spent his whole life fighting for the upliftment of people, who has overseen South Africa’s transition to a multiracial democracy, based on an incident or even a series thereof. That would be an aberration.

    Finally, Mr President, should you decide to go on the rampage and start firing people, please remember that in terms of section 345(2)1(2) of the Constitution, you are empowered to “fire and immediately order from the premises, the then manager (by his mother maybe) of Orlando Pirates”.

    Your cooperation in this regard will go a long way to building bridges in this, our great nation.


    • Michael Trapido

      Mike Trapido is a criminal attorney and publicist having also worked as an editor and journalist. He was born in Johannesburg and attended HA Jack and Highlands North High Schools. He married Robyn in 1984 (Mrs Traps, aka "the government") and has three sons (who all look suspiciously like her ex-boss). He was a counsellor on the JCCI for a year around 1992. His passions include Derby County, Blue Bulls, Orlando Pirates, Proteas and Springboks. He takes Valium in order to cope with Bafana Bafana's results. Practice Michael Trapido Attorney (civil and criminal) 011 022 7332 Facebook