Enter Deputy President Paul Mashatile who has been very busy

Deputy President Paul Mashatile. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Deputy President Paul Mashatile. Picture: African News Agency (ANA)

Published May 31, 2023


Lorato Tshenkeng

Pretoria - Cabinet reshuffles under the presidency of the incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa have not been at the lightning speed of an F1 race, compared to those of his predecessor Jacob Zuma.

Yet, while these have not been frequent, there is still a majority agreement that there are lacklustre performers in his current Cabinet.

Some of these, as the Zondo Commission on State Capture stated and recommended, should not even be part of the current Cabinet. But Ramaphosa and his advisers would have none of it – party unity always seems paramount, in the face of public perception of corruption-accused comrades continuing to occupy political office.

Following his much-vaunted recent reshuffle, after his re-election at Nasrec last December, one name has been on everyone’s lips and how this name is much more ambitious, how the Alexandra-born man is eyeing Ramaphosa’s seat. Enter Deputy President Paul Mashatile.

More than two months since his appointment to the second highest position in government, Mashatile has been very busy, busier than his predecessor David Mabuza.

There has been far more open communication from his office. The media has been granted access to a man who has answered questions in both houses of Parliament, visited Jagersfontein in what was a carefully orchestrated public relations exercise, and was last week heard in KwaZulu-Natal saying all the right things – in a province that has been icy in its reception of his boss.

As part of his responsibilities, Mashatile has to monitor service delivery, a tricky issue and sore point for the governing party over at least the past two decades. Service delivery failures across South African communities have been palpable, and may play a key role in the outcome of next year’s general election. Will Mashatile the communicator be the public figure who plays a key role in averting a catastrophe for the governing party? That remains to be seen.

What we have so far observed is that those appointed as part of his political appointments, including the former presidency spokesperson Mukoni Ratshitanga, former ANC communications head Keith Khoza, communication strategist Vukani Mde and former government communicator Tshilidzi Ratshitanga, have been hard at work.

They need to do more though, with their communications counterparts, as aspects such as social media, particularly Twitter, need to be carefully managed. One merely needs to take a glance through Decode Communications’ South African Government Leaders on Twitter report in the past three years to see how most politicians in the governing party regularly miss glaring opportunities to better communicate.

“Politicians are good listeners. Because if they’re not, they aren’t politicians for very long,” said Andrew Cuomo, erstwhile governor of New York.

These are words that ring true in Mashatile’s case – he is willing to listen, and he is willing to utilise the communications ammunition around him to achieve a better posture than that of his predecessor Mabuza.

It’s a pity that here at home we don’t see what the likes of Cuomo have done – resigning from office after being a long-serving governor in the US amid allegations of sexual misconduct and a cover-up of Covid-19 deaths in nursing homes.

Zondo’s recommendations stand idle. Mashatile has been around when it comes to occupying government positions. Some 29 years ago, after the first democratic elections, he became the Leader of the House in the Gauteng Legislature, a position he held for two years.

The province’s premier at the time was Tokyo Sexwale – 12 years later, Mashatile assumed the position, albeit for a short time of fewer than seven months.

Electricity blackouts are becoming a sore point. A clear lack of service delivery. Potholes are getting bigger by the day. The residents of Hammanskraal are reasonably despondent. So yes, Mr Deputy President, do keep up the good work of being seen and saying all the right things. Strategic communication is key, use it.

* Tshenkeng is the founder and CEO of Decode Communications, a Pan-African Reputation Management agency.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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