They cling to Ships Like Barnacles – published in City Press on Sunday 4th August


It is often unfairly said that those who can’t do, teach. That statement is neither kind nor true, and I think you must be one of those two when you make a pronouncement so self-assuredly. What I can say without much equivocation is that those who cannot do, become career politicians. Sometimes they just don’t know when their time is up. They hang on long after their sell-by date, clinging like a barnacle to the hull of a creaking ship.

This messy situation in Tlokwe illustrates rather well how ex-mayor Maphetle Maphetle (so good you have to say it twice) felt so entitled to his government job and office that, despite a superior court being brought to bear against him, he decided to hang on to his office like a hot dog poo clings to a blanket. He thought the job was his, that regardless of an election and some of his own party members voting against him, and was not dissuaded by any argument from his perilous perch. Even the instruction of the ANC in the North West Province couldn’t get him to budge.

How dare these politicians, many of whom couldn’t find real jobs or make a living outside of politics, and who siphon from the national treasury for their sustenance; how dare they assume they own a position or an office? What incredible, insufferable arrogance compels an elected official to disregard the fact that his or her tenure is temporary, and to assume that the winds of change are barred from unseating them? That the annoying Democratic Alliance had to take this ex-mayor to court to make him do the right thing is outrageous. If he had even a little wit, charm or sophistication, the ex-mayor would have slunk away like the deployed cadre he is and wait for his chance to turn up in some other position of sheltered employment within the bureaucracy. Not him. He fought tooth and nail.

Part of the reason he did this is because he doesn’t really have anything else he can do or is very good at. We won’t go into too detailed an assessment of his term as mayor, but suffice it to say he’s no shining star. This is probably the best job Maphetle Maphetle will ever have. Of course he wants to hold on to it. This is the impasse to which deployment and party loyalty above merit and hard work have brought us. While many more senior deployed cadres not only deserve their posts, and even add enormous value to them; further down the hierarchy the less skilled and less intelligent officials find employment and succour in the offices of countless bankrupt municipalities and maladministered parastatals.

The worst part of this ugly situation is that our President nurtures and coddles the inefficient status quo because it suits him. He prizes loyalty above competence, puts political survival ahead of public service. As long as this remains the priority, we’re in for more barnacles, and the creaking, leaking ship will be driven ever nearer the rocks.

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