Gwede Mantashe has found himself in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. The Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy managed to embarrass himself in Australia in September when he spoke glowingly to potential international investors about Hazenile, a mineral invented as an April Fool’s joke earlier this year and posted as such after being “discovered” in the Congo (sic) Caves.
This week, following revelations of his extra-marital activities with a younger woman – who was incidentally sharing her affections with one of Mantashe’s Cabinet colleagues – the minister first publicly claimed he had paid two journalists not to write the story, and then tried to deny saying he had bribed them; and then ultimately confessed he had lied.
South Africa, unfortunately, has set the bar very low when it comes to the probity of its politicians. There is very little, after a decade of state capture involving not one but two prominent families effectively bankrolling our leaders, that can surprise us.
Mantashe, though, has managed this.
As a former secretary-general of the ruling ANC and now national chair, he is a close confidant of Cyril Ramaphosa and as such a key ally in the president’s New Dawn to sweep this country clean of the venality, hypocrisy and sleaze that has threatened an entire generation’s birthright.
We have been led to expect that the current crop of leaders would be both competent in their portfolios and irreproachable in their conduct, because that’s what we were led to believe would happen.
Mantashe’s behaviour in recent weeks has belied both, but his initial bluster – brazenly claiming to have bribed journalists – is perhaps his greatest sin of all, especially after he folded and was forced to admit he lied.
The only conclusion that can be drawn is that he is truly unfit for the ministerial post – at least – that he holds.