Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of StatsSA. File photo.
Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of StatsSA. File photo.

The late Muravha remembered for his wit

By Pali Lehohla Time of article published Oct 3, 2021

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AUGUST was a bad month in which I mourned the loss of comrade Muvhango Muravha. A call came and I thought it was him calling but it was the daughter informing me he was no more.

Muravha worked in the Venda Statistics Office and we had constant run-ins with him shortly after 1994.

A witty trade unionist, knowledgeable in conditions of service law and an ardent negotiator.

The amalgamation of South Africa into one unitary state away from what was homelands, self-governing territories, townships including a white homeland appropriated to white establishment was daunting.

Whilst one had to read this through a measurement lens, but it also had to be confronted from the shear moving of individuals from physical spaces, job descriptions and making sure all work together.

My task at the Central Statistica Services, (CSS), after Mark Orkin was appointed as the head of the institution was demographic statistics and provinces. The task of amalgamation in all its dimensions, especially geographic, fell on my lap.

I was of course the first to be amalgamated. Days after Orkin was appointed as head, he reached out to me to join from the North West.

The discussion of terms of working between North West and CSS did not materialise because I was wholly at head office preparing for the census.

The responsibility for amalgamation saw me visiting the four homeland statistics offices, and the Venda staff were the most difficult to address.

When I visited the Venda office shortly after being transferred to head office, I knew the meeting was going to be tough judging from earlier correspondence with staff members.

The bone of contention, which never got really resolved and remained with the Public Service Commission was that of translation of people’s competencies.

The Venda staff insisted that they were statisticians, but without the necessary qualifications and I was not going to budge on that.

I recall telling them in the meeting that a doctor is not an experienced nurse. That remained the mantra between my comrade Muravha with whom I shared a very close and mature relationship.

He became very ill in 2017 and I visited him at the heart hospital where he was in the ICU and in a coma.

As I stepped in and asked my comrade what was wrong, the nurses were surprised at how he shook in bed, got excited and they warned me never to come to the hospital ever to see him.

They were really surprised at his excitement. Murhava was a straight shooter and at one time as we drove together to Limpopo to bury one of the staff members there, he said to me: “Comrade, you see you have appointed people who do not deliver to your expectations and you have appointed them. You are therefore responsible for non-delivery”. Then he burst out in laughter. I said “comrade would you not have been a bit diplomatic?”.

He retorted, that is the truth, comrade. At another point this witty Venda man sent Orkin on a spin when he wrote him a letter demanding a meeting.

Muravha had made reference to all labour laws and rules of procedure and at the end he signed Muravha M.P. which were his initials. Orkin thought the MP stood for Member of Parliament. So, he set everything in motion to attend to Muravha’s complaints.

His trick had worked, albeit momentarily. On our trip to Limpopo we reminisced over his wily ways, too. He is no more. I enjoyed and benefitted from his counsel tremendously when I was Statistician-General and beyond.

May His Soul Rest in Peace and his family be consoled.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of StatsSA. Meet him at www.pie.org.za or @Palilj01.


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