Lead from front, Ntate

Mothobi Mutloatse

Mothobi Mutloatse

Ho senyehile. Ke diphosophoso. It is a mess. It is a comedy of errors that encapsulated South Africa's gradual political defacement this week.

To say some parts of the government's approaches to the challenges of the departing SAA chief executive officer Khaya Ngqula and His Holiness the Dalai Lama debacle have been below par is an understatement.

Rightly or wrongly, the buck stops with the boss - in this case, the head of state: Ntate Kgalema Petrus Motlanthe.

Yes, ntate, you, and you alone. Not the spokesperson or ministers of foreign or home affairs , or even one in the presidency.

What really happened? Why? Are there any lessons to be learnt?

Or, is the government going to wish away this watershed moment in our fledgling democracy? To assume this storm will die down of its own accord is to make a fatal error we will live to regret, even if it is a decade later.

Either you rise to the occasion and take us into your confidence as our father who art on earth, and explain to us holistically. without revealing strategic national security issues, what was the rationale behind the no-issue/non-invitation to the Dalai Lama, and whether you find it difficult in your heart of hearts to acknowledge we "have a problem" of immense proportions, regardless of the fact that it could have been unintended.

Being statesman-like does not necessarily mean capitulating to anyone. However, it requires candour. Because the problem cannot be eliminated by political censorship (our erstwhile apartheid bullies can attest to that).

How the Cabinet could have got it wrong - through the actions of the minister in charge of the SAA portfolio - is shocking beyond belief.

This debacle is now going to form part of our heritage, albeit negatively. When historians gain access to these archives in two decades, I can imagine the embarrassment the country is going to be saddled with, let alone the ridicule.

Ke nako, Mopresidente - it is indeed time to go back to the drawing board in terms of media relations, Mr President. Lead from the front, ntate and roll with the punches.

Further spin-doctoring will not do. The genie is already out of the bottle.

l Mutloatse is a writer and publisher