IS THERE REALLY NO GOVERNMENT IN FREE STATE? A CRITICAL VIEW FROM THE INSIDE

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Free State Provincial Government

Opinion by Tiisetso Makhele – “There is no government in the Free State (province), neither at the provincial nor at local government levels” – Comrade Gwede Mantashe, 21 January 2023, Imvelo Safari Lodge, Bloemfontein.

It has been almost 3 weeks since Comrade Gwede Mantashe, who is the National Chairperson of the governing ANC, and also the Minster of Mineral Resources and Energy, made these remarks. There has been no response from the government at both levels, either in affirmation or in opposition of these far-reaching remarks by a cabinet minister, which were made in public. One is unsure if this silence means consent, or the opposite.

When Comrade Gwede Mantashe made that statement, I became weak on my knees. The piercing pain of shame harassed my internal organs. I nearly collapsed, for I am a public servant. I am part of that “absent government” that was referred to.

I do not have the benefit of the facts which may have empowered Cde Mantashe to arrive at the conclusion he has made. I therefore sat down to try and unpack his remarks, at least from a desktop review basis. Firstly, I sought to understand what this government is. Vast amounts of literature agree, at least at an elementary level, that government is an institution or a system made up of a group of people that takes care of, or manages, a country or state.

Currently, we have such institutions at the provincial and local government levels. At the provincial level we have the executive council, consisting of the Premier and the Members of the Executive Council (MECs), supported by administrative authorities. At local level we have fully constituted councils. We do not have a collapsed council, as yet.

I strongly suspect that Comrade Mantashe was critiquing the quality of those institutions. I think he was bemoaning the dearth of leadership at those institutions. In this context, there must be a deliberate contrast between a leader and leadership. Whilst a leader denotes an individual or person, leadership encapsulates a process, or a group of activities to guide, influence or inspire people towards a particular vision.

Whilst there have been, and continues to be leaders of good calibre, both at provincial and local government, but I would not say the same about leadership. Government has, over some time, been in a state of dizziness, thanks to a lack of leadership.

As the movement will be seized with the reconfiguration of the various spheres of government, I would urge them to be meticulous, rather than be obsessed with pleasing supporters, praise singers or indunas of factions, by awarding the latter with positions that are too heavy for them. We need leaders who would not compete amongst themselves for the limelight, or about the number of posters bearing their faces.

We however a leadership that would sit together, develop a common vision for the province, and vomit that vision amongst senior management, who would then develop policies, strategies, frameworks to attain that vision. A leadership that will exude one message in different voices, irrespective of the audience. We must see less of messenger-leaders, who would be all over the province, holding meetings that sit until the wee hours of the morning, with nil impact.

I therefore conclude, robustly, so, that there is a government in the Free State, but the absence of leadership is too loud for all and sundry to notice.

Makhele is a public sector economics practitioner who writes in his personal capacity

TIISETSO MAKHELE

TIISETSO MAKHELE

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