Come on, do it comrades

Redi Direko

Redi Direko

A wise man once asked how do you know that a politician is lying? The answer - when his lips move. Well, our politicians' lips move all the time and, yes, on many occasions they are simply lying.

When you are a leader and have to defend the indefensible, is it best to not say anything or to spew forth the most shocking lie possible?

But, there is something praise-worthy about the current ANC leadership's openness to communicate. Whatever the flaws of the ruling party's message - and these should not be taken lightly - they do not think they are too important to address the nation.

Our recalled intellectual was often too important to stoop to the low levels of us mortals. For all his acumen, our former president Thabo Mbeki was a dismal communicator.

How I remember being told by his spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga, at the height of the Jackie Selebi warrant saga and the ill-considered decision to fire the former deputy minister of health, Nozizwe Madlala Routledge, that he does not have to explain himself as it is his prerogative to hire or fire ministers. What cheek!

Combine this refusal to communicate with arrogance and you have the perfect recipe for a leadership that thinks it breathes different air to that of the people it leads. Even his mother Epainette Mbeki once admitted that Thabo struggles to come down to the level of ordinary people. Shame, poor guy!

Notwithstanding the inflammatory rhetoric that often comes out of Malema's mouth, the current generation of ANC leaders has largely decreased the distance between the party and the citizenry.

I have often tried to get a comment and reaction from them and they have duly replied.

This attitude has also filtered to the corridors of government. Take this ongoing eruption over Schabir Schaik's medical parole. There is a reasonable suspicion that the convicted fraudster received preferential treatment and the jury is still out on this one. Granted, correctional services's response to enquiries has been clumsy - but on the day he was released, Minister Ngconde Balfour and his spokesperson Manelisi Wolela were answering calls.

They could have ducked or given the ridiculous "no comment" and then convinced themselves that they have communicated.

When it was discovered that the cholera outbreak could have been contained in Mpumalanga and Limpopo and that it did not stem from the influx of Zimbabweans but from our own rivers' unsafe drinking water, Minister Lindiwe Hendricks accounted for this sad state of affairs.

Safety and Security Minister Nathi Mthethwa was asked about the cost of Jacob Zuma's security. He could have pleaded ignorance but he pronounced that taxpayers part with a R1 million a month to keep JZ safe.

That's communication. It does not solve all our problems but it sends the message that we are worthy of being spoken to.

Be that as it may, the ANC post-Polokwane has not escaped the perception that it has a higher tolerance for corruption and fraud.

The appointments of the broke Carl Niehaus, Mnyamezeli Booi and Winnie Madikizela Mandela (suspended sentence or not, she was convicted), and the decision to cover up Travelgate, all indicate that as long as you are loved by the party, you can break any rule in the book. Frightening but real.

So should we be grateful that the ANC tolerates corrupt leaders but still talks to us? That sometimes they tell lies but at least they face the nation?

The best leaders exhibit both their values and ethics in their leadership style, actions and words. Come on Luthuli House, it can be done.