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Nxesi, bring a modicum of decorum, and show decisive leadership

Opinion
It's been a long week in South Africa, even by our own political standards. The landscape has changed, weed is now tolerated and, from a sporting governance perspective, the musical chairs in the country’s upper echelons may bring about a modicum of decorum.

Well, we can but hope.

Fikile Mbalula has been shifted onto more criminal matters, and Thembelani Nxesi now holds the pen of power in sport, illustrating once more that in Mzansi, it’s not what you know, but who you know.

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Thembelani Nxesi Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/Independent Media

South Africa must remain as one of the few emerging countries in the world where a minister’s current portfolio doesn’t have to be linked with his previous experience.

It isn’t always necessary to be in that trade, as Pravin Gordhan seamlessly illustrated, but a little humility doesn’t half hurt when you are in intellectual quicksand.

Mbalula, enthusiastic as he was about the Soweto derby, hosting Floyd Mayweather and blowing millions on Beyoncé, did not have a background that had any sporting highlights.

But that didn’t stop him from throwing his weight around for all it was worth, and ruffling feathers wherever he went.

You would think that humility should be one of the prerequisites for positions of influence but, by that logic, one would also expect the president himself to have ticked boxes as mundane as transparency, anti-corrupt and, perhaps, not prone to self-serving decisions that reek of a word that rhymes with runt and punt.

But, we live in a weird, Zuma-wonderland, which now sees a man who previously took one for the team over the Nkandla debacle heading our sports and recreation.

Is that a good thing?

Is that what South African sport need right now? Will Nxesi do more than the selfie-grabbing, Twitter-warring, party-loving Mbalula to level playing fields?

An ordinary citizen would assume that these considerations cropped up in the pre-amble to the latest shuffle, but it’s also an easy oversight when one is juggling brown envelopes and taking calls from Russia.

South African sport, for better or worse, remains one of the fundamental glues of this increasingly fraught and fragmented country.

Amid the confusion and collusion, Saturday afternoons around a braai, with a beverage, remind us why we love this country, even with all its drama.

Nxesi surely can’t hog the limelight as greedily as Mbalula did. That bar has been set far too high for anyone to ever attempt to top it.

What would be ingenious of Nxesi, perhaps, is to hire someone who has previously rolled up their sleeves and worked in the sporting trenches, but doesn’t crave all the glory.

Perhaps this saviour can pull the strings, write the speeches, and occasionally make the decisions that truly matter, for the good of South African sport.

As it is, most of our key decisions are being outsourced, anyway, so why not add the sports and recreation portfolio too? We can only hope that he will surround himself with actual intelligence, because South African sport - much like the rest of the country - needs strong, decisive leadership now.

It truly is an incredible time to be a South African.

Sunday Independent

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