Baleka Mbete pleads ignorance about government controversies, and blames crime on colonialists

21 October 2019 - 12:04 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
Baleka Mbete's interview with Al Jazeera has been labelled an 'embarrassment'.
Baleka Mbete's interview with Al Jazeera has been labelled an 'embarrassment'.
Image: Masi Losi

Former national assembly speaker Baleka Mbete’s interview with television station Al Jazeera has been labelled “embarrassing” after she failed to take responsibility for the failures of the ANC government.

During the interview, Mbete was asked to comment about issues ranging from corruption to upgrades at former president Jaccob Zuma’s Nkandla homestead.

Mehdi Hasan, the presenter of the show, asked Mbete to react to the World Bank’s research finding that South Africa was an unequal society.

“I don’t believe so,” she said.

She decried the research as an “exaggeration” and said the World Bank was not God.

Mbete would not be drawn into taking responsibility for the failures of the governing party.

“Wrong things have happened but that doesn’t mean it’s all gloom,” she said.

When asked why she did not speak out against the looting of state resources when it happened under her watch, Mbete said: “Things were not happening in full view of everyone. There are many things I’m only learning now on how bad things were.

“I have no me outside the collective. I don’t have personal space to do things individually.”

Hasan said Mbete was speaking as an observer, when she herself was in government.

Asked why no one has been held to account for the deaths of miners in Marikana in 2012, Mbete said: “I will find out. I will get myself better informed."

She said she was not sure who had been held to account.

“It would be wrong if no one has been arrested for the Marikana massacre,” she said.

Asked why she did not call out former president Thabo Mbeki for saying there was no link between HIV and Aids while thousands of people were dying, Mbete said: “I never had a private moment with Thabo Mbeki”.

An audience member accused Mbete of being in denial and not taking any accountability for the failures of her party, such as dealing with crime.

“We can’t blame the problems of South African society on the ANC. Criminality has been in South Africa for more than three centuries, especially after the colonialists came and brought crime from Europe to Africa, so you can't say the ANC brought criminality,” Mbete said to loud murmurs from the audience..

Twitter users weighed in on Mbete’s comments, with some suggesting she should avoid interviews.

Some said South Africans felt embarrassed for her and for the country's politicians.

Among the commentators were Phill Mfunda, who said: “ I feel embarrassed just watching this. I just can’t finish it.” 

Boitumelo Madiba shared, “She has embarrassed us on the world stage.”