If incompetence had another name, that would be Gomba

Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba hasn't shown leadership required at this time of Covid-19 pandemic.
Eastern Cape health MEC Sindiswa Gomba hasn't shown leadership required at this time of Covid-19 pandemic.
Image: FILE

On May 23 last year, our sister publication The Herald which I edited at the time, published a front page headline: "So help us God".

Underneath was a picture of the Eastern Cape premier Oscar Mabuyane and his MECs being sworn in as the new members of the provincial executive.

That week was a PR headache for the new premier. Just days before, a politically connected businessman (I use the word loosely) had claimed in a police affidavit that the premier and his soon-to-be public works MEC Babalo Madikizela had been involved in a dodgy loan deal which ultimately siphoned money from a poor rural municipality.

Mabuyane denied the allegations and went on to assemble his cabinet.

With the benefit of hindsight, I have come to realise that something else happened that week which largely went under the media radar.

Mabuyane told us his mission was to build a capable state and to create "the Eastern Cape we want". And then without blinking an eye, he went ahead and appointed Sindiswa Gomba to lead arguably the most shining example of the administrative incompetence that is my home province - the health department.

Let's be blunt, the rationale behind this appointment had a lot to do with the ANC's factional dynamics than ensuring hospitals and clinics work efficiently.

Apart from a few tweets, the appointment of a woman who's track record as a leader in the public service has at best been dubious went unchallenged.

You see, just weeks before, Gomba had emerged from a four-year long trial where she and others from the Buffalo City metro had been charged with fraud and money laundering in connection with the infamous Nelson Mandela funeral funds scandal.

The National Prosecuting Authority had withdrawn the charges on technical grounds.

To Gomba, the withdrawal of the charges was vindication. Mabuyane told a reporter it was "good for the ANC".

To the rest of us it meant that we may never know if the woman who was soon to run our public healthcare was involved in one of the most brazen looting scandals to hit the province.

It meant that we may never know if she is indeed the thief that the police believed she was.

Nonetheless, what we know is that she is incompetent.

Her handling of the Covid-19 pandemic in the EC - arguably the worst and most embarrassing management of the outbreak in the country - has demonstrated that she does not possess the technical comprehension nor the leadership acumen required at this time.

Nothing demonstrates this more than her answer to health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize when asked why an important managerial vacancy had not been filled in the Nelson Mandela Bay's health department.

Gomba reportedly told the angry minister she was waiting for ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule to approve a name.

Of course we know that the ANC, like any other party chooses to fill government positions with its members or those sympathetic to the party.

But to explicitly put this as a reason for not filling a critical vacancy demonstrates Gomba's inherent inability to comprehend the distinction between her party and the state.

It is these and many other reasons that earned her the wrath of the public when she made that deliciously inappropriate gaffe in front of the nation on Tuesday evening.

During a live ministerial briefing on Zoom, Gomba shared inputs on how local businesses should benefit (interesting choice of word) from health procurement processes.

And then, believing her microphone was off, she yelled "andidikwe" as she moved away from her laptop.

In her damage control statement yesterday, she said she had in fact been fed up with the hot doek and clothes she was wearing since 6am and not the work she was expected to do. Here's the thing: that explanation was never going to fly.

Doeks aside, Gomba's performance during this pandemic is like that of someone who believes the work of fighting a deadly virus and accounting to the public is an inconvenience they must bear in between delivering important things like directing procurement and deploying cadres.

If Mabuyane continues to shield her, as is likely to happen, then so help us God!

*Makunga is Sowetan editor

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