This Shiceka tragicomedy has gone just too far

16 September 2011 - 13:33
By Redi Tlhabi

IN GREEK mythology, Euphrosyne was the goddess of good cheer, joy, mirth and merriment.

Poets write that she, together with her sisters Thalia and Aglaea, were created to fill the world with pleasant moments and goodwill.

I have not read that the goddess of good cheer ever married so I would like to propose Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Sicelo Shiceka as a suitable companion.

I have never in my life heard anybody sound so cheerful and happy. But I guess seven months' paid sick leave would also fill any heart with pure unadulterated joy!

But hold on, the minister is no longer sick and instead has been gallivanting the length and breadth of the globe, playing tennis.

When called by a colleague a few days ago, an upbeat and content Shiceka told her: "I am very very much well, in terms of my feelings, my body is carrying me very well. Generally myself as a human being, as a person, I feel good, comparatively speaking. I am travelling a lot, different places, playing tennis. I am on top of the world."

Clearly his "father figure", who happens to be a traditional healer, has worked his magic!

I am reliably told that Shiceka's cabinet colleagues are not amused because he wasn't supposed to speak.

It helped them for him to be under the radar so that they can justify not taking action against him.

But now that he has told us all how glorious life has been, the spotlight is back on the people who are tasked with making decisions on his fate. The minister has expressed his keenness to return to work to pick up where he left off. But he cannot return to work because the public protector "has not finalised the report". President Jacob Zuma says his hands are tied because the public protector has not pronounced on his alleged abuse of state funds.

The smooth-talking presidential aide, Mac Maharaj, says: "We need that to be completed otherwise the situation is untenable."

The situation is already untenable, ridiculous and downright silly!

While the president and minister point fingers at Thuli Madonsela, she released a statement yesterday refuting accusations that she is "dragging her feet in finalising the investigation".

When asked for an interview by the public protector, an unsigned letter was sent to her, ostensibly on behalf of Shiceka, informing her that he cannot be interviewed until he is declared medically fit.

An offer was made to interview him at his home and no response was received.

The president was, according to the public protector, also informed about the minister's unavailability and his intervention was sought.

Nothing happened.

When Sowetan reported last month that the minister, according to his spokesperson, is well enough to return to work, again the public protector requested a meeting.

The response from the minister was that he is not well and he distanced himself from reports that he was. Keep in mind that this is the same person who was recorded this week saying he has been travelling and playing tennis!

While Shiceka has responded to written questions, he has yet to respond to a request for clarity on certain aspects of his responses. The public protector's recent statement adds that additional information and evidence that cannot be ignored has come to light.

This tragicomedy has gone too far.

While the minister has been vacillating between sickness and health, communities are caught in a never-ending vortex of poverty and violent service delivery protests.

Instead of showing leadership and calling on his minister to cooperate with the public protector, the president is pointing fingers at her and happily allowing Shiceka do to as he pleases.

Of all the players in this saga, Zuma is the one who has failed South Africans the most.

Has he forgotten his promise when allegations against Shiceka first came to light? Back in April Zuma said these allegations were viewed in a serious light and investigations would not drag on for too long.

Seen through the prism of time, the president's statement is a joke, except it is not funny.

This is another perfect example of our leaders treating us with disdain by obfuscating and hiding behind processes.