Think well before speaking

IS IT a `case of when two bulls fight it is the grass that suffers or is it a case of putting the cart before the horse?

I pondered on the matter because of the predicament Ndivhuo Mabaya, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Lindiwe Sisulu's spokesman, found himself in this week after his reckless public outburst against Human Settlement Minister Tokyo Sexwale.

There are valuable lessons to be learnt from the debacle. Since Mabaya is Sisulu's public face what he does should be in line with the message agreed on by her.

During the violent protest by disgruntled SANDF members earlier this year, Mabaya was vocal and vociferous.

Like a true, committed and dedicated soldier, he fielded media enquiries and ensured that there was no media void.

There was no confusion in the message and I take my hat off to him .

But where Mabaya can be faulted is that he did things haphazardly. One needs to craft the message clearly, succinctly and to the point. Most of the words he spewed were unsavoury and undiplomatic, bordering on disrespect.

Some say there's a political battle brewing between the two ministers and true or not, it was not for Mabaya to enter that terrain.

The media can be a hostile environment. Words are like bombs, depending what you say and how you say it and if hit, you could be part of what in military terms we call "collateral damage".

Know your area of expertise, anticipate crisis and develop a crisis communication strategy. If you don't know something, say so and go check. Don't answer media questions at face value. Don't lie.

As for head of communication Siphiwe Dlamini, who was quoted as saying Mabaya's statements were not approved, he should also shoulder the blame since he has been a silent communicator and virtually nonexistent.

He should have developed a proper communication strategy, stipulating that only the minister should be the communication champion.

The media briefing addressed by the minister should have been appropriate in this regards. The spokesperson should play the role of a conduit between ministry and government.

Themba Sepotokele, Johannesburg