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Thu Mar 30 10:53:06 SAST 2017

Rants that have raised hackles – when public officials shoot their mouths off

Penwell Dlamini | 2017-01-12 13:04:06.0
Lumka Oliphant with Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini.
Image by: Lumka Oliphant via Facebook

Spokesperson Lumka Oliphant had a lot of bottle in defending her boss‚ Social Development Minister Bathabile Dlamini‚ against media reports saying that she appeared to be drunk at a government event.

But she is not the first public official whose mouth has landed them in the drink.

In 2012‚ when then government spokesperson Mzwandile Manyi didn’t have his contract renewed‚ speculation was rife that the controversial views he expressed in public led to his undoing.

The year before‚ Manyi was accused of being racist when he said that there was an “over-supply” of coloureds in the Western Cape and that Indians were over-represented in management positions across the country.

He also made headlines when he suggested that government could withdraw advertising revenue from newspapers that do not toe the administration line.

More recently‚ Business Day reported this week that Manyi condemned Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan for criticising Luther Lebelo‚ a senior South African Revenue Service executive‚ for writing a letter to the newspaper attacking credit rating agencies and the ANC government for kowtowing to them.

Lebelo described credit rating agencies as "economic gangs"‚ which prompted Gordhan to tell Parliament that he did not believe Lebelo should have written the letter and he “should not be commenting on a sensitive and serious matter such as ratings in the public domain”.

In 2013‚ Hawks spokesperson McIntosh Polela invited the wrath of the public‚ and his bosses‚ when he got the claws out for kwaito star Molemo “Jub Jub” Maarohanye.

He was fired after tweeting a controversial reference to prison rape after Maarohanye was convicted of murder for a car crash in Soweto that killed four children.

He posted: “JubJub spending 1st nite in prison. Bail has been denied after being found guilty of murder‚ attempted murder & racing while high. I trust that JubJub's supporters gave him a jar of Vaseline to take to prison.”

Polela later apologised‚ but it was not enough to keep his job. Jub Jub was released on parole last week after serving half of his eight-year sentence.

While Oliphant could be in trouble for defending Dlamini‚ the minister herself courted controversy when‚ during a trip to New York in March last year‚ she responded to a question about the Guptas’ influence over politicians and officials.

“Even that family‚ if people feel it has to be brought to book‚ structures must do that‚ the officials must call them and talk to them and give them a marching order not through shouting outside because all of us in the NEC (national executive committee) have our small skeletons and we don't want to take all skeletons out because hell will break loose.”

This was seized on by opposition parties as evidence that the ANC was corrupt‚ and drew a stern rebuke from the ruling party’s secretary-general‚ Gwede Mantashe.

In January last year‚ amid the furore over Penny Sparrow’s monkey comments‚ Gauteng Department of Sports‚ Arts‚ Culture and Recreation employee Velaphi Khumalo was taken to task for his racist Facebook comments.

Khumalo had posted that he wanted to “cleans (sic) the country of all white people” and do as “Hitler did to the Jews”.

He tried to claim that they were his personal views‚ but his boss‚ MEC Faith Mazibuko‚ said the department “views the hateful post by Velaphi Khumalo in a serious light".

It’s hard to single out just one outburst from former SABC executive Hlaudi Motsoeneng‚ but his admission to the public protector‚ whose report ultimately led to him leaving the public broadcaster‚ is worth an inclusion: “From me ... for now because I do understand all the issues‚ I was not supposed to be honest. If I was ... now I was clear in my mind‚ like now I know what is wrong‚ what is right‚ I was not supposed to even put it‚ but there they said‚ ‘No‚ put it’‚ but what is important for me‚ public protector‚ is everybody knew and even when I put there I said to the lady ‘I’m not sure about my symbols’ and why I was not sure‚ public protector‚ is because I go‚ a sub‚ you know I remember okay in English I think it was ‘E’ because it was you know after ... it was 1995.”

Motsoeneng was widely believed to be untouchable and has never been disciplined or sanctioned for his comments.

– TMG Digital

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