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PR can make or break a man

By unknown | May 19, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Someone - one of my drinking buddies, I think it was, spoke very disparagingly about Mukoni Ratshitanga as a spin doctor.

Someone - one of my drinking buddies, I think it was, spoke very disparagingly about Mukoni Ratshitanga as a spin doctor.

I am not going to repeat his views, but suffice to say that I started thinking of the late Parks Mankahlana.

Now that was the master of spin!

Ramotena Mabote couldn't have found a better example than the follies of former president Thabo Mbeki to write a book on the art of public relations. Those who know him better or have spent time observing him, say one of Mbeki's biggest shortcomings was the inability to delegate. Mbeki is good, a genius, in fact. You don't have to go any further than his anthemic I Am An African speech to validate this claim.

The lot of great thinkers like him tend to trust only their own abilities. They are perfectionists. Mankahlana's death robbed him of someone he could rely on to articulate his views as if they were from-the-horse's-mouth.

This is by no means an indictment on Ratshitanga. But with Mankahlana gone, who could even lie for Mbeki, the former commander-in-chief's whole PR mechanism stuttered from one disaster to another.

Notice the conspicuous NOT in the second part of the title. No one will teach you better than the trials and tribulations of Mbeki how not to do PR.

Mabote says that in PR "you must learn to listen and hear the other side, even if you do not agree with it".

If you think of the causal-link debate between HIV and Aids, you will realise what a PR disaster this turned out for the erudite one. If he listened at all, it was to Matthias Rath, and no one else.

The writer makes this telling point: As you make your bed, lie in it. Mbeki's actions spiralled out of control once his spin on HIV-Aids could not hold. Instead of lying in his bed, he played the blame game. Accept that your adversaries are not necessarily your enemies, Mabote says. But in Mbeki's book, you cross his path and you are his Nemesis for ever.

One of Mbeki's favourite thinkers was Amilcar Cabral. But instead of following Cabral's advice, Mbeki told lies, and claimed more easy victories, says Mabote.

Was he told or not about the probe into disgraced police commissioner Jackie Selebi? PR can make a man, as long as he doesn't do it the Mbeki way.


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