Maybe it’s a giant prank. Maybe Gwede Mantashe is just punking us all. It’s hard to tell whether Mantashe is playing some really elaborate, double entendre spoof like the kind of thing the great comedian Andy Kaufman used to do. American comedy genius Kaufman, made famous by the REM song Man on the Moon and the Jim Carrey movie of the same name, created these elaborate setups to confound audiences’ expectations, in one case being a wrestler.
So, what does one make of a Cabinet minister who makes the kinds of outlandish, irrational and implausible comments that are distinctly at odds with his own President’s priorities and that threaten real investment?
These include that there is “an anti-development movement that is emerging, which is very confident, very emboldened. Every time you explore for mining, or even for oil and gas in the ocean, they take you to court. Their aim is to kill investment through the courts,” he told a mining conference on 25 January.
“They are funded heavily by foreign entities. That’s why they have top-class lawyers to oppose exploration. And if we don’t protect that, we are not going to succeed in growing the mining industry,” he added, reading from the Trump Playbook of Bull**it.
Let’s not forget his unforgivable comment that Wild Coast protests against Shell’s planned disruptive seismic survey were “apartheid and colonialism of a special type”.
On 23 January, he told City Press that the UK’s Children’s Investment Fund Foundation “channelled” money to an institution based in the University of Cape Town (UCT), “which funds a number of projects, including aspects of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR] and other civil society groups to destabilise the work of the department”.
But fear not, the intrepid Mantashe has uncovered this dubious international plot to save the planet, he claims. “But because we are aware, we can confront it. The money is from the UK, goes through UCT – through an institution I will not name – which channels the money to the CSIR and civil society [organisations]. The fact that we are aware makes us able to actually deal with the reality that we are confronted with.”
Meanwhile, he further claims there is a “coordinated media campaign” run through the “predominantly white liberal media” and funded by these nefarious climate change bodies who viciously want to save Mpumalanga’s pollution-ravaged communities from their own government’s lack of care.
Huh? Is he being weirdly sarcastic? Or does he truly believe that any adverse criticism must be a foreign-funded CIA ploy?
Like many people have said of Tourism Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, he’s not in Cabinet for his intellect.
Mantashe’s conduct is frankly more egregious than Sisulu’s. She’s a loose ideological cannon, but really only a midget desktop cannon about the size of a first-year sociology student’s ham-fisted attempts at making sense of Karl Marx.
Nobody takes her seriously, despite her family name.
But Mantashe is handling real money. His public utterances, however deranged, have an impact on foreign direct investment – making his paranoid schizophrenic verbal diarrhoea potentially damaging to the country’s bottom line.
Somebody has to pay for the process of moving from outdated, redundant, planet-pollution technologies (like mining for coal) and start the implementation of new technologies (am I writing slow enough for the energy minister to grasp this?) such as solar, renewables and battery storage.
Mantashe can’t get his head around the change management that is required to move from a now-redundant way of doing things, which happens to make Eskom one of the world’s biggest polluters, towards a new way. It’s change management in a particularly obvious way: change the mindset of the business, of its management, of its staff, of its consumers. Every big business goes through this, as do governments.
Mantashe, the former trade unionist who ran the National Union of Mineworkers, is stuck in the past and can’t see how destructive his actions are. Then again, he claimed at the Zondo Commission not to know who installed his expensive home security system – at a time when Bosasa was Gupta-rising off state assets. Like any security-conscious South African doesn’t know everything about their home security.
Mantashe’s comments are frankly scandalous, and deserve more censure than Sisulu’s, irrespective of the fact that they are generally incomprehensible.
It’s also hard to take him at his word, given his brilliant obfuscation when he was the ANC secretary-general for the last five years of #PresidunceZuma’s chaotic and corrupt reign. Donald Rumsfeld would have been proud.
“I’m running [my portfolio] to the best of my ability,” Mantashe told City Press. “Many journalists and editors have created a picture of an isolated Gwede Mantashe. I’m running [the Department of] Mineral Resources and Energy. I’m not running renewable energy. I’m running mineral resources and energy.”
And that is the problem right there. Minerals are the past. Renewable energy is the future. Please can someone tell Gwede Mantashe? DM168