Loyal spokesman faces off in Facebook tirade

13 January 2017 - 08:26 By PENWELL DLAMINI

Reputation management expert Rams Mabote says firing Social Development Ministry spokesman Lumka Oliphant for her rants on social media would not solve the problem that government communications faces.

Speaking to The Times, Mabote said government spokesmen in general had not learned to separate themselves from their political superiors.

"If there is an attack on your principal, it is an attack on your principal, not on you. Your job is to counsel your principal about how she can handle the attack. It does not matter how angry the principal is, you do not own the anger. You are the mediator between the principal and the media."

Oliphant made headlines yesterday when she vented her anger on Facebook over people accusing the minister, Bathabile Dlamini, of drinking.

  • OPINION: Let us count the ways Lumka Oliphant spits in the public’s faceThe foul-mouthed tirade by Lumka Oliphant‚ the spokesman for the social development minister‚ on her Facebook page is no laughing matter and she should be fired.

"So today, allow me to dance for my food. Above all, allow me to be vulgar. Anyone of you who wish to use this post for your articles, go the f*ck ahead! Yes, the f*ck ahead. Let me just tell you about the Bathabile Dlamini I know and her attitude towards alcohol: Akabufuni. Akabuseli. (She doesn't want it. She doesn't drink it)," Oliphant wrote on Facebook.

Her post was in response to media reports that suggested Dlamini had been drunk when she addressed an audience at an event.

Mabote said Oliphant should have stepped back.

"Once you take ownership of that, you have now blurred the relationship. In my view that is what Lumka did. She blurred the relationship. She took her boss's struggles and made them her own fights," Mabote said.

Oliphant did not respond to calls or SMSes from The Times.

  • ‘Yoh! Lumka Oliphant is one angry lady’ – Twitter calls for ministerial spokesperson’s head after foul-mouth rant“Yoh! Lumka Oliphant is one angry lady‚” wrote My Surname is Khan™‏@ejaz_k.

There was no official comment from the Department of Social Development and the Public Service Commission, which is responsible for the conduct of public servants.

However, Mahlodi Muofhe, the adviser to the Minister of Public Service and Administration, Ngoako Ramatlhodi, said all government officials were expected to abide by the code of conduct.

"We are governed by the Public Service Act and the code of ethics, which implore public servants to apply the principles of Batho Pele in any given circumstances."

  • ‘Don’t talk s*** about her’ - social development minister’s spokesperson expletive-laden rant“Anyone of you who wish to use this post for your articles‚ go the f*** ahead! Yes‚ the f*** ahead!”

Muofhe warned against subjecting Oliphant to a public disciplinary hearing as she was also covered by the Labour Relations Act, as a government employee.

"Honestly, I believe the government must do a review of its communication spaces. It must look at the policies, strategies and the personnel it deploys. Are they properly trained and equipped? For me knee-jerk reactions of firing people are not always the solution."

There were unconfirmed reports of an apology but Oliphant appeared unrepentant on her Facebook account.

She has not deleted the post. Instead, she posted one of the memes that had been created following her rant, saying the creators could have used a better picture.