Since the story broke, I have waited for Motsoeneng to distance himself from the whole matter. Nothing. I waited for the SABC board to say something. Silence. I waited for the government high-ups responsible for women, youth and cultural affairs to condemn the despicable act. No word. I waited for the ANC Women’s League, the ANC Youth League and the Young Communist League to speak up for the 10 girls. Tjoep!
Hlaudi’s gift: We should hang our heads in shame: Mondli Makhanya, City Press 15/6/2014
Kaizer Kganyago, SAUK-woordvoerder, het die gebeure gister by navraag bevestig en gesê daar was sowat tien jong vroue wat aan die proses deelgeneem het.
“Hy het nie die aanbod aanvaar nie.”
SAUK-baas kry toe byna ’n vrou present: Die Burger 14/6/2014
In his City Press article, part of which anchors this column, Mondli Makhanya says that most people reacted with amusement to the news that Hlaudi Motsoeneng had been offered a woman half his age as his wife because he is regarded (although not by SABC board chairperson Ellen Zandile Tshabalala) as a joke.
I would like to think Makhanya is profoundly wrong in that regard because my own response was visceral anger and revulsion and I know I am not alone – those emotions are reflected by our entire ethnic spectrum in comments below online articles on this matter.
The Daily Dispatch, following up on the Sowetan article, contacted Lisa Vetten, a researcher at the Wits University Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER), for comment: “This is why we need a robust debate around culture, tradition and gender equality,” she said. “We need to seriously ask the question about whether these practices reflect the spirit of the Constitution.
“This incident raises questions about how seriously we want to question traditional power.”
“Any tradition that sees women as objects to be traded or given away, where women aren’t recognised as full autonomous beings, is incredibly problematic. And it is in such circumstances, where women aren’t seen as full human beings, rather only objects to trade, where violence against women thrives,” Vetten said.
The chosen woman was pictured, bare breasted, standing next to him in the original article in the Sowetan. He is smiling broadly and seems to have his arm around her. Next to him is a middle aged woman who could be the girl’s mother.
The “chosen” one – out of 10 paraded before Motsoeneng for his delectation and his delight, is reported to be a “23-year-old human resources management student”.
What made me so angry is that I cannot believe that this beautiful young woman with defined career aspirations does not have a significant other in her life, someone that she cares deeply about, possibly already loves, fantasises about and happily contemplates a shared future with.
Was there, thus, some coercive factor which persuaded her to participate in what seems to have been contemplated as an arranged marriage?
As Makhanya points out the silence from the ANC has been shameful but where does the truth lie?
I ask this because on Saturday 13 June Die Burger quotes SABC spokesperson Kganyago as stating categorically that Motsoeneng “did not accept the offer”.
Initially when reporters phoned the SABC to follow up on the Sowetan story they were told that there would be no comment because this related to Motsoeneng’s personal life. That is manifestly not what the SABC normally practices. The state broadcaster has regaled us with numerous stories – something that never happened in the apartheid era – about the religious inclinations of the Corporation’s acting chief executive.
South Africa is, constitutionally, a secular state which protects the freedom of worship for the entire population whose beliefs range from atheists and Anglicans to Zen Buddhists so why is he and his particular faith singled out for such extraordinary coverage?
- On 13 December 2012 a number of what the Mail & Guardian described as “charismatic church leaders” visited the Auckland Park HQ of the SABC and “laid hands” upon Motsoeneng and Lulama Mokhobo the then chairperson of the Corporation’s board.
- On 5 April on its main TV news bulletins the SABC regaled us with a story of national importance – that Motsoeneng had been ordained as a pastor by the Divine Spiritual Outreach Ministries Church.
- On 13 March the SABC carried a TV news bulletin story when the same church leaders prayed in support of Motsoeneng. The YouTube clip showed his supporters in front of a big poster which featured the SABC logo, a photo of him alongside the slogan “Hands of Hlaudi” which was alongside the ANC’s election slogan, “A good story to tell” – an obviously justified and accurate juxtaposition given the role he plays at the state broadcaster in promoting and protecting the interests of the party.
So the SABC, when commanded to do so, does carry on its main news broadcasts, stories about the personal life of the man the public protector says is unfit for office and should never have been appointed in the first place.
How does one interpret the lack of a timeous response by Kaizer Kganyago to the Sowetan article?
He is paid handsomely to guard the reputation and image of the SABC and to promote its interests. What we seem to be facing here however, given the fact that such an attractive, aspirational and intelligent young woman very probably has a lover, is a sort of colloquial droit du seigneur and as Makhanya said: The fact that in 2014 women can be seen as “gifts” should have us all bow our heads in shame. So why Kaizer Kganyago’s silence until contacted by Die Burger?
S’bu Ndebele option
I suspect that Motsoeneng wanted the woman but that Luthuli House exercised what I will call the ‘S’bu Ndebele Option’ and Kganyago decided it was best to keep his head below the ramparts.
Here’s what the Natal Mercury wrote in its 17 May 2009 edition under the headline ‘S’bu Ndebele’s R1.1-million gift’
Hardly a week into his new portfolio as Minister of Transport, S’bu Ndebele is in the midst of political controversy after accepting, among other gifts, a R1.1 million vehicle from a group of contractors with contracts worth more than R400-million in his department.
Vukuzakhe contractors threw a farewell party for Ndebele at the Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Saturday, apparently honouring the former KwaZulu-Natal premier for his contribution to creating a platform for small contractors to emerge.
Apart from other gifts that included cattle, Ndebele drove away in a new Mercedes-Benz S500 worth R1 140 000, according to present retail figures. The DA called for him to return the car.
However, Ndebele came out with his guns blazing, defending the gesture saying that the gift did not amount to any conflict of interest because it had been planned a while ago.
Now Ndebele is just your average ANC politician but there are several reasons why media people remember him.
- It was he, as KZN Premier, who along with his gun-toting goons, invaded the SABC on 16 June 2005 after he had fled a Kwa Mashu rally under a hail of plastic bottles and other objects. His objective was to intimidate Mandla Zembe, subsequently described by Judge Neels Claassen as a “young and highly talented SABC reporter” into suppressing the story about his ignominious departure from the rally. In this he had the full support of the unspeakable Snuki Zikalala.
- It was he who, displaying extraordinary initiative as KZN Premier in 2005, managed to get a dirt road to his farm tarred while other much busier dirt roads in the area remained untarred and became increasingly dangerous. The Natal Witness, in covering a subsequent court case, showed that, by cosmic coincidence, the tarred section of road extended only as far as N’debele’s farm.
There was a very good reason why N’debele was happy to accept the ‘gift’ of a million rand Mercedes. South Africans have become familiar with the sight of Caviar Comrades like Blade Nzimande, accompanied by often murderous blue light convoys, waving to the poor through the tinted windows of their pimped-to-the-max, Blingmobiles (Siphiwe Nyanda bought two). The problem, however, as N’debele correctly saw it, is that the cars belong to the state and have to be returned when ANC politicians fall out of favour with the currently ruling clique. He wanted to keep his million rand Mercedes and stoutly resisted, initially anyway, suggestions by the Democratic Alliance that he should return it.
Luthuli House eventually prevailed upon him to return the car, however reluctantly and I suspect that similar pressures were exerted with similar success on Motsoeneng.
What I wonder, does Makhudu Sefara, editor of the Star, make of the ‘Motsoeneng marriage’ debacle?
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