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“Unfortunately Minister Paul Mashatile cannot make it today as he has to attend the funeral of Minister Roy Padayachie,” announced MEC Lebogang Maile at the launch of the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz in Newtown.
“He has given me his speech to read out, but it is way too long so I shall give you a shortened version.”
It was the first time I had seen the MEC give a speech in the flesh, and it was impressive.
It was impressive because it showed that he had a practical understanding of how the arts media world worked.
Not for us pontificated speeches about salient subjects of waffledom.
This was a jazz launch and we wanted cool, brief and informative – which is what MEC Maile gave us.
The second time I met him was at Pigalle, his favourite restaurant at Melrose Arch.
It was a bit of a crazy afternoon as his provincial meeting was running two hours late. I met with his PR rep, Thami Kotloko, and we were later joined by a kwaito star and his entourage where fine whiskies and oysters on ice aplenty were consumed during the wait.
MEC Maile arrived with 1 000 genuine apologies. He was ravenous and, like a good SA man, ordered a large steak.
However, between the noisy kwaito star and his entourage and the fact that a self-important BEE-type insisted on interrupting our time together, the evening was abandoned for a quieter restaurant away from the madding crowd.
What did come across is that this man is practical under pressure and chaos.
He is a people’s person without being falsely ingratiating.
“I still play Trompies,” he smiled. “But I also grew up listening to Hugh Masekela and Toni Braxton. I am not married to any genre of music. I love African contemporary music as well as jazz to kwaito.
“I have tried my hand at house DJing and I have tried mixing, but it’s a difficult thing for me.”
For relaxation, Maile loves playing and watching soccer as well as chilling out in front of his favourite soaps – Rhythm City, Generations and Isidingo.
Maile was born in 1979 and grew up in a two-roomed house in Alexandra. “My earliest childhood memory was of poverty and hunger. My mother was a member of a trade union and my brother was away in exile. I remember a raid on our house where they kicked the door in and there were bullets flying. I was angry about this constant harassment and I joined the ANC Youth League before the age of 13.”
By 1995 he was elected president of the Congress of SA Students. Cosas was a strong advocate of the active involvement of parents in the education of their children. He failed his first time in matric, but, as luck would have it, Crawford College had tasked the then-MEC of Education, Mary Metcalfe, to find a student who needed a scholarship. “I knew her as president of Cosas and she had faith in me. She believed that in a better environment, I could pass matric, and I did.”
Work post-matric included the Tshwane South College and the provincial secretary for the ANCYL. He was then tasked to start the Gauteng Youth Commission Agency.
In 2009 he was elected to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, and in 2010 he was elected MEC of Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation.
Our next meeting took place in a restaurant in Melville. He looked rather handsome sitting next to an Andy Warhol print of the famous Che Guevara picture – which was rather apt, I discovered later.
“My motto is from Che Guevara. ‘You must always try to be the best. If not, then be counted among the best.’”
Maile spoke passionately, yet practically, about the role of his department in Gauteng and SA society.
“The first thing about the new budget is that we are not given much money – and correctly so.”
Yet again, his life approach to finding solutions, not problems, comes to the fore.
“We have an unhealthy nation. There are millions with HIV and Aids. There is drug abuse, obesity. We want to solve these problems. There are approximately 500 wards in Gauteng. This department wants to have a sports facility in every ward. We also want to build community theatres.
“On top of that, we want to make sure they are accessible and maintained. To ensure this, we are working with local government, but we also need to ensure that there is no duplication in government budgets. We also want to put two parks in every ward. We are dedicating R33 million to school sports, with Ekurhuleni and Tshwane councils also contributing some of their budget for school sports. School sports are important to keep children away from drugs and to keep them fit.
“We are planning to provide transport for children to play outside their townships.”
Other sports plans included a sports village in Mogale City: “It’s a huge project for which we don’t have enough money, but we have asked Treasury and the private sector to come on board.”
In terms of craft, part of the budget has been set aside to take crafters to Moscow for an international exhibition and a chance to explore exporting opportunities.
His area also embraces film, with the Gauteng Film Commission having fallen under his department since April.
One of the projects the department is embarking on is the conceptualisation of the Gauteng International Film Festival.
In his budget speech, Maile also announced an initiative to establish the Gauteng Audiovisual Resource Centres “as part of our bid to improve access to content and educational resources for upcoming filmmakers”.
The Gauteng Film Commission has been allocated a total of R23.4m this financial year.
In terms of music, R11m is allocated to seven premier events – the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, Summer Splash (as organised by Kalawa Jazmee’s Oskido), the Music of the 80s extravaganza, the Spring Day Music Explosion (as organised by Kalawa Jazmee’s Mahoota and Pepsi), the Back to the City Hip Hop Festival, the gay-friendly Feather Awards and the Moshito Music Conference and Exhibition.
Throughout our conversation, he speaks passionately of the department’s involvement in theatre and dance development projects, and about the Soweto Carnival. But it is the mention of the Gauteng Sports Awards, taking place at Emperor’s Palace on June 30, which brings a twinkle to his eye.
“We are extremely proud of the Gauteng Sports Awards as they honour excellence in sports on every level and encourage excellence by recognising achieve- ments. It’s not just about fun, but it’s a very important platform for our people.”
The event begins at 8pm with Selimathunzi’s Zizo Beda and Tshepo Mabona as the hosts.
Finally, the question of his future aspirations and goals arises – as does the ghost of ANCYL past president Julius Malema.
Maile takes a sip of his tea and answers with all the hallmarks of a politician. His response is carefully thought out, non-committal, yet strategic.
“It’s not because I want to be leader of the ANCYL. There are people who believe that I fit the profile to lead. If people see me as that, then it is an honour. I don’t see position as a privilege. Position means I must serve to the best of my ability.
“Having been in politics from such an early age, I have never had the opportunity not to think of other people. I never wanted to be famous. I have never thought of being president of this country. Everything I do is for people and my family. My destiny is to serve, whether in a formal or in an informal position. I want to be the best cadre that the ANC has ever produced.”
I watch him leave, dressed in his leather jacket and jeans, and climb into his vehicle sans bodyguards and blue lights.
Right now, at the tender age of 33, Lebogang Maile has the world at his feet.
He appears to totally go against the grain of the tenderpreneurship of a few of his colleagues. Will he continue on this purported path of political and humanitarian idealism? Only time will tell.
l For a more comprehensive look at the budget go to www.sacr.gpg.gov.ca