Why the fuss over SABC boss’s matric?

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SABC COO INDEPENDENT NEWSPAPERS The very fact that Hlaudi Motsoeneng was already acting in the COO post, says a lot about either his abilities or his bosses dereliction, says the writer . File photo: Motshwari Mofokeng

Rams Mabote has a serious problem with South Africans’ obsession with qualifications.


The country is up in arms again. This time it is not because of the e-tolls or Nkandla, or even Khumbulekhaya.

We are up in arms because Public Protector Thuli Madonsela told us what we have always known: that Hlaudi Motsoeneng does not have matric.

Madonsela revealed in her report on Monday that allegations that the acting chief operating officer of our beleaguered SABC had not completed his matric were “substantiated”.

We should be a country of schizophrenics really – and I am saying this with all the respect to people who deal with the sad mental illness. We have a Parliament and nine legislatures of lawmakers, most of whom are no better than Motsoeneng in educational stakes.

Some of the people we hold in high esteem – in our communities, churches, business and cabinet – are seen as the best in their fields in spite of their less than colourful school education credentials.

Why then are we swearing our voices hoarse, with some even threatening to stop paying their TV licences even though all they watch is pay TV? It truly cannot be about Motsoeneng.

And let’s face it, the SABC is not necessarily a broken malfunctioning machinery that should be scrapped in the heap of history. Yes, yes, yes, I agree it has many challenges, but the three TV channels go on every day, and 11 radio stations produce programming that reaches millions of South Africans.

The reality is that Motsoeneng is, to steal the words of one juror, an unlikeable person. He has earned a reputation as a lackey of the ruling party and a bully. Some of this, by the way, is urban legend on which few of us will not bet their hard- earned money.

Making this reputation stick is that Motsoeneng is also accused of many other things, including purging staff and adversaries, running the SABC with an iron fist and lucratively rewarding himself with successive and seemingly generous salary increases.

But why are we unhappy about this matric stuff? Is it because Motsoeneng “lied” about his qualifications, or because we believe he needs matric to do the job for which he was applying, the very same one in which he has been acting forever?

In either case, I don’t get the fuss. If he lied, in my view it was a little white lie. He was just applying for a job he was already acting in.

The very fact that he was already acting in the post, says a lot about either his abilities or his bosses’ dereliction. If anyone is guilty, it has to be those who made him act in that post and those who subsequently kept him there for years.

I have a serious problem with our obsession with qualifications in this country. At this point I will take all insults from our bookwise tsars who believe school education is the be-all and end-all.

But let’s move on. I have seen adverts for drivers insisting that they must have matric. For what? If I already have a driving licence (which I was allowed to get solely on the qualification that I am over the age of 18) and have been driving all my life, what more value is a matric certificate going to add to my abilities to move goods from one place to another?

I love education and I have argued that if I could ever have the dishonour of being president for a week, I would declare education free for all

. I think it is unfortunate that Motsoeneng lied about his matric, or lack thereof, but I also think it is unfortunate that a man who “does not qualify” for the job, had been allowed to do it so long.

* Rams Mabote is a consultant in reputation management. Follow him @ramsmabote

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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