Incapacity and the cadres – Politicsweb, 10 December 2015

Sara Gon says the term has come to refer to a kind of immutable uncorrectable incompetence.

By Sara Gon

There are a number of myths perpetuated in South African politics. A myth is a “widely held but false idea or belief”. This is the fifth and final article in a series of articles from the SAIRR which explains and debunks some of the political myths in South Africa.

Myth No. 5 – Incapacity

The OED defines incapacity as: “Physical or mental inability to do something or to manage one’s affairs.” The OED uses as an example “they can be sacked only for incapacity or misbehaviour”.

This accurately encapsulates the context that most of us know: incapacity is usually used in a legal, medical or employment context. Randomly googling “incapacity” brings up “fairness of dismissal for incapacity”, “incapacity due to ill health or injury”, “poor performance”.

The essence of incapacity in the employment context is that it is a deficit that is not the fault of the employee. It is also not the fault of the employer. However, the employer is required to follow a proper procedure to allow the employee an opportunity to reverse the incapacity.

Incapacity due to Injury or illness should be given an opportunity to heal so that the person may return to work.

Incapacity due to poor performance means that if the employee cannot perform an aspect of his or her job, the employer is expected to train the employee to overcome the deficit, to restructure the job, if possible or to transfer the employee, if possible.

Only once these avenues have been pursued and failed, is the employer entitled to dismiss the employee and only after conducting a proper hearing.

‘Incapacity’ no longer has this meaning, however. The lexicon of the ANC that is now used in wider society gives a nod to its original meaning but only a nod.

‘Incapacity’ now refers to an immutable incompetence that cannot be corrected but will not result in the termination of the incompetent. This is because the authority that hired the incompetent person was not chiefly concerned with the ability to do the job. The concern was that a certain person occupy that position.

From this context has developed the concept of a group or department not having the ‘capacity’ to perform a task, meaning the skills to perform the task are insufficient.

‘Incapacity’ as it is now intended is a creature of the ANC’s political philosophy of ‘cadre deployment’ – to staff the public sector with people who are politically useful to the ANC but not necessarily competent.

By the way, when the ANC refers to ‘cadre’, it doesn’t mean a small group, body, team or corps. It means a group of activists in a communist or revolutionary organisation.

At its recently completed National General Conference, the ANC reiterated that it is pushing relentlessly for a communist society. It will sort out the mess after it gets there.

And the mess will get messier if what was revealed in an interview by SABC CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng is anything to go by.

In an article on BDlive (Monday 12 October 2015), Gareth van Onselen wrote an opinion on an interview given by Motsoeneng to Waldimar Pelse on Kyknet’s Insig programme.

Van Onselen says that viewed in its entirety, the 11 minute interview “constitutes a staggering display of ineptitude.”

On a number of times, Motsoeneng failed to understand the question. Sometimes he would not answer the question at all. On the few occasions that he did both, the response was so vague and generalised, Van Onselen wondered whether he could cite a single piece of specific evidence for anything he believed or whether he operated entirely in “a universe of blind faith, in which he got most of his views off the back of cereal boxes”.

On Motsoeneng’s repeated calls for more regulation of the press: "I have been observing journalists today don’t do what they are supposed to do"; "When they report they are not factual"; "They always take sources that are not even credible"; "They don’t do their own research"; "They don’t investigate stories, I think they are just excited to go on [sic] internet".

For Motsoeneng, “journalists are about as morally corrupt as one gets. His language is fundamental and absolutist and the problem, he suggests, is acute. He makes no exceptions and believes it boils down to an inability to get "the facts" right.”

Van Onselen notes Motsoeneng is in charge of hundreds of journalists. “Is this view not an indictment of his management? Pelser asked him what he was doing at the SABC to rectify the problem.”

"What I have been doing within the organisation, including the team that I work with, I always encourage them, for journalists, to go to the street, and go and get those stories themselves."

Motsoeneng is the head of a multimillion-rand media organisation and this is his response is that to a problem he himself has described as nothing less than a national crisis.
Pelser referred to existing regulation and the new system of "independent co-regulation", which had a Press Council at its heart, announced by late Chief Justice Pius Langa and endorsed by ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe.

Motsoeneng’s reply? "I can’t respond on other people’s views," but reassures Pelser that he is lobbying "BIG TIME" for more regulation.

As Van Onselen says, being able to take a view on someone else’s position is quintessential to journalism in all its forms.

"In my view government always allow [sic] journalists.

"I don’t see anything wrong from government, if people are not following whatever that they need to follow, if government gets involves [sic] and puts their facts on the table."

In order to illustrate his point, Motsoeneng cited the Law Society as an example of effective regulation. One of the South African Law Society’s aims and objectives is to

"Safeguard and maintain the independence, objectivity and integrity of the profession”.

Asked to give an example of journalists being critical. ”What do you mean by an example?" Motsoeneng asked.

Motsoeneng eventually came up with "an example". He suggested that the media has repeatedly misrepresented the Nkandla affair. "You have 10 houses, someone come [sic] and build five houses, its 15 houses, but you combined those houses together, you are misleading people."

Pelser asked, "Do you think this government … sometimes lies?"

"Government LIE? I have never hear [sic] anything about government lying."

As Van Onselen says: “There is only one thing anyone with even the vaguest sense of what competence looks like would get from that interview: it wasn’t on display.”

Van Onselen concludes that Motsoeneng’s interview displayed not what is wrong with journalism but what is wrong with the SABC.

That is the nub of it: a stupid, incompetent, egomaniacal, narcissist, Motsoeneng awarded himself a R 1m salary increase, lied about having a matric certificate and lost a Supreme Court of Appeal against the Public Protector. He is a prime example of the incapacity that the ANC desires in its inexorable march to the utopian state.

The Democratic Alliance was to approach the High Court on 14 October 2015 for an order holding the SABC in contempt of court for not implementing the suspension of Motsoeneng in terms of last week’s court judgment.

Incapacity continua!

Sara Gon is a Policy Fellow at the IRR, a think tank that promotes economic and political liberty. Follow the IRR on Twitter @IRR_SouthAfrica.

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