Ontlametse Mochware being sworn in as MEC for social development in the North West Legislature last month. File picture: Otsile Tlape

Ontlametse Mochware’s first act of taking public office was to lie, attempt to commit fraud or act ignorantly of the law.

Pretoria - The name Ontlametse Mochware probably does not mean much to you. Yet. Mochware made history last week when her tenure as MEC in the North West government became the shortest in history, lasting less than nine hours.

History must recall Mochware not just as trivial pursuit question.

Mochware’s conduct was spit on the face of the law she was taking a vow to uphold.

Her fellow provincial government ministers were accomplices to this act against the electorate and constitution.

Independent Newspapers reported that Mochware was sworn in to bypass the constitution and keep the legislature’s former finance watchdog head, Hlomane Chauke, out.

During his tenure, the report adds, Chauke was instrumental in exposing various mining houses for failing to pay millions in royalties to communities where they were mining.

The standing committee also played a role in the expulsion of two MECs for corruption.

Mochware needs to explain what she was doing taking an oath she knew she was not entitled to take?

Her colleagues must account for what they did or said when they got wind that, or saw a person they knew was not on the list of those who should be sworn in as MECs, taking vows reserved for members of the main policy and decision- making organ in the province.

It would probably have carried a bit more weight as a mitigating factor if Mochware had done a Thamsanqa Jantjie, the man who pretended he had the skill of translating to the deaf when he, in fact, had none.

The difference between Jantjie and Mochware is that Mochware performed her act in the name of promising to serve the people of South Africa.

It means her, and by extension the government of the North West’s first act of taking public office was to lie, attempt to commit fraud or act ignorantly of the law.

ANC provincial secretary Dakota Legoete said the resignation happened as a “consequence of a legal technicality in order to totally comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act”.

So even by the governing party’s own account, there are only two options it must plead to.

They either mouthed words they did not mean when they swore to uphold the constitution and the rule of law.

Alternatively, they are a clueless bunch that after five elections and being sworn in, still do not know what is required of them.

Either way it is not acceptable.

How difficult a constitutional law question can it be that only those appointed as MEC must take an oath of being an MEC.

Surely a person who does not get that should not even be part of a street committee, let alone a provincial law-making house.

So as they were going through the motions promising the people of their province heaven and earth, the government was plotting how to elbow members of rival factions out of the equation.

The obvious question then is how are the people of the province supposed to trust a government that is either ignorant or has no respect for the oath it takes?

How can people who in a province where children died last month because they drank water contaminated with cholera, trust their government when it says it has the situation under control?

You might believe it does not affect you because you do not live or have business interests in the North West.

You would be wrong.

First, because South Africa is a unitary state where what happens in one part of the country can have an impact on what happens elsewhere. Marikana – which incidentally is in that province – is a perfect example.

Second, unless the North West government leadership is censured for this blatant act of thuggery and undermining of the constitution they swore – or pretended to swear by – who is to say that other provinces and local government entities will not try their luck?

The third, and probably more problematic, reason is that it is the acts of governments such as North West’s that prove the “if voting changed anything it would not be allowed” crowd right.

The ANC has declared this administration to be the one that will bring “radical” change.

But if there is no equally radical change in the heads and hearts of those who are entrusted with public power and purse, the party’s bold declaration will be a mere slogan and a pipe dream.

The people of South Africa have been patient for 20 years seeing those supposed to be their representatives grow fatter and fatter without much changing in their immediate surroundings.

They have heard all the slogans and shouted all the “vivas” but unless governments such as that of North West stop taking their patience as a sign of stupidity, the next removal of a lawmaker might not be as neat a processes as Ontlametse Mochware’s was.

* Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya is an executive editor at the Pretoria News. Follow him on Twitter @fikelelom

Pretoria News