Johannesburg - Actors often give spectacular performances to appease their directors and advance their careers. It’s a perfect professional trajectory in the world of performing arts.
Unfortunately, it is dangerous when the actors hold senior positions in parastatals or in government. In such a theatrical atmosphere, the drama doesn’t end, the plot thickens, the script gets murkier as the comedy of errors continues. When these actors start appeasing their directors and win the Oscars in the form of a fat pay cheque or golden handshake, professionalism is compromised and institutions are paralysed.
It’s not surprising that someone like Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the acting-demoted-reinstated-whatever chief operating officer of the SABC can do anything to appease his director, including compromising the corporation’s editorial independence. His obsession is to get an Oscar.
His directors – in this case politicians – also demand the best performance from him as long as he does not question the script. The suspension of Vuyisile Kona hardly four months after he was asked to act as SAA CEO is another example of this tragicomedy.
We must equally be worried when our criminal justice system is led by such actors. Some of them are good performers but others just want the Oscar at all costs.
The State Security Agency, its domestic and international spy outfits, the National Prosecuting Authority, the Special Investigating Unit and the Crime Intelligence Unit are currently led by actors.
Some of the actors have been acting for more than two years while others have a dodgy past, and they will definitely give an excellent performance to appease the director to turn a blind eye to their thuggish history.
Moe Shaik, Jeff Maqetuka and Gibson Njenje left the intelligence two years ago, President Jacob Zuma fired Willie Hofmeyr as head of Special Investigating Unit in November 2011 and a month later, he placed Menzi Simelane, the former National Director of Prosecutions, on special leave. The drama at crime intelligence unit, involving one controversial Richard Mdluli, has been playing out for more than two years.
Who runs our spies? This is a crucial question, especially after Shaik, Maqetuka and Njenje cited political interference in their work as the reasons for their departure.
We are perilously silent about the extent in which these state agencies are potentially becoming the partisan forte for the executive.
It’s frightening in two ways.
First, such institutions warrant some form of operational and professional buffer and independence from politicians. It’s easy for the executive to interfere with the work of an acting head who has some hopes and expectation to be appointed permanently (this doesn’t necessarily mean permanent heads cannot be manipulated).
Second, South Africa is still battling with crime, including corruption, and it is vital that there is stability at the top of these structures to boost the morale of hardworking and dedicated police officers, spies and prosecutors.
Zuma admitted in his State of the Nation address last month that: “To further boost the fight against corruption, we will fill all vacant posts at the upper echelons of the criminal justice system.”
But the delay in filling these positions is inexcusable.