Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba. File picture: ANA

Any rising star commits a crime by virtue of his ambition. As he rises, he displeases most and endears himself to the many others who look forward to glowing in his sunshine.
A rising star faces inordinate odds and is weaned by many mishaps that will, in time, harden his skin. The silver spoon metaphor is lost on him as he toils only to suffer from self-inflicted misfortune.

Marie Curie counsels that we must not be like sadistic scientists that hunt for errors rather than seek the truth.

This week, Malusi Gigaba either lost a vital link to his ancestors or missed his WhatsApp message. He called a press conference ostensibly to clear the matter of the Guptas’ naturalisation but it turned out his information wasn’t correct. Hard as he tried to put on a brave face in the glare of media and public scrutiny to untangle himself from the intricate Guptagate web and put the matter to rest, alas, what seemed to be an impromptu briefing soon uncovered the unintended, and the matter turned out to be a public relations nightmare with social media weighing in.

When the Electoral Commission conceded that Atul and Ranjesh Gupta are voters, but not Ajay, the matter took a dramatic turn. The opposition parties and sections of the public began to see red and felt short-changed.

On Wednesday, when Gigaba was supposed to appear before the Home Affairs portfolio committee, and reported sick, already rife speculation suggested that he was on the run. By midday, opposition parties were baying for his blood and the media was abuzz with anxiety.

His spokesperson, Mayihlome Tshwete, was as inundated with questions as the Tiger Brand chief. But when his director-general hosted a press conference to clear the matter, the confusion abated, albeit with much consternation. Home Affairs director-general Mkuseli Apleni provided plenty of information, which should have been provided in the first place.

Gibaba thundered into the political scene when he took over the position of president of the ANC Youth League from Lulu Johnson between 1996 to 2004. During his tenure he transformed the league into a formidable body whose voice in the affairs of the youth was loud and resounding. For this he was rewarded with two terms in office, testimony to his leadership skills.

His return to Home Affairs was received with mixed public reaction, mainly disapproval but there was muted excitement in some quarters. Many theories abound about why he was sent back to the post that was responsible for his near-demise. It was argued that he could have been sent there to further self-destruct by cleaning up his act, or mess? Could it be that there was no other place to take him given the limited public openings and the jostling for space by the new entrants? Or it could be that Cyril Ramaphosa has a soft belly for him?

Also, could it be that Cyril wanted to placate KZN after the demotion of Nathi Nhleko and the firing of Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize? The other two leaders were placed in the Presidency, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma responsible for Monitoring and Evaluation, and Bathabile Dlamini assigned the role of Women and Youth.

When Gigaba replaced Pravin Gordhan on March 30, 2017 as minister of finance, he set tongues wagging. A relatively young minister with no financial background catapulted into a very senior ministerial position, it caused the markets to react.

This week, we were treated to a glaring spectacle of one of his mishaps. Could it be that he was put under a taxi or honestly committed a glitch? Some saw it as insignificant as a typo, but most saw it as a blunder.

When he presented his maiden National Budget recently he did so spectacularly, with a flawless presentation. When the EFF’s objections had died down, the field was laid bare for the rising star to test his mantle. Much to the chagrin of his nemesis, he did a splendid job.

South Africans must not be too quick to write Gigaba’s obituary as he has proven to be a phoenix. He is likeable and charming in those tightly fitted suits. He has become a fashion star to wit, and easily shows off his pure white set of teeth at the slightest provocation. He is a hard worker and a delivery leader who must allow his staff to communicate on administrative matters, especially where he is conflicted.

The Nkandka debacle could have been handled better if the relevant directors-general had been asked to do it. Ministers deal with broad questions of policy but implementation and details are the preserve of officials. Ministers don’t generate submissions but approve them, so the value chain of decision-making is the forté of directors-general.

We are not about to say adiós to Malusi but can safely say good night. It does not mean that when Maradona misses a penalty he ceases to be a star. Methinks Gigaba was too quick to wish to communicate than to seek to mislead. Charles Babbage, the English polymath, advised that “errors using inadequate data are much less than those using no data at all”.

* Ka Plaatjie is the adviser to Minister Lindiwe Sisulu.

The Sunday Independent