Saturday 26 August 2006

Making an ass of a South African policeman

Qualified to Minister?

Sometimes, one wonders what qualifications are required other than political affiliation and cronyism to become ministers of the realm in many governments.

The Nigerian Blog World is bursting with opinions about the suitability and qualifications of the current Finance Minister who understudied as a Minister of State in that Ministry a seemingly more capable person who had PhD in regional economics and development and was a vice-president at the World Bank.

Though it is said that the current Finance Minister is respected internationally, for a country like Nigeria with a huge oil economy undergoing extensive reforms, a BSc in Geography and Post Graduate Diploma in Management in some countries might just be sufficient for a middle-level position in Local Government.

In any case, she is now the Finance Minister and we can only expect that she would perform with excellence despite our general misgivings.

New treatments for HIV/AIDS

In South Africa, certain ministerial appointments and the antics of the ministerial personnel borders on the laughable as they make pronouncements that would have circus clowns look unfunny.

The Health Minister, Manto Tshabalala-Mismang is apparently medically trained culminating in a Masters in Public Health. There is no doubt that the side effects and toxicities of HIV/AIDS drugs are issues of concern.

However, to then use that issue to advocate the treatment of AIDS with lemon, beetroot and garlic without empirical medical or pharmacological research to support that basis makes this qualified doctor look like a quack.

Group-think AIDS malady

To compound issues, these bizarre statements were made at an international conference on the HIV/AIDS.

For a country like South Africa that has such a high number of infected citizens, the health minister has for 7 years been the worst possible person to appoint to address a situation that borders on a national crisis.

This is not helped by the fact that certain obtuse ideologues in leadership are viewing HIV/AIDS as a purely social issue instead of seeing the serious medical and public health perspective to the problem.

The clamour for her resignation if not her sacking cannot be loud enough; this woman has failed to grasp the context and brief of her ministerial portfolio, to say the least.

The making of a crime story

It is not strange to see policemen in Amsterdam in cars, on scooters, on bicycles, on roller-blade skates, on horses or strolling on foot; they get around the town just as everyone does and they do command a modicum of authority.

Returning to South Africa, which supposedly has one of the highest crime rates in the world, anyone in charge of dealing with crime should be adequately providing resources to the men on the ground to tackle serious crime whilst maintaining a fa├žade of authority and respect.

In the case of South Africa, this might mean armed personnel, reinforced cars equipped with radios, photographic equipment and a few other paraphernalia that would allow effective arrests and quick despatch of cases.

So, one would think it valid when the police suggest they cannot get to crime scenes because they do not have cars – cars in themselves provide some sort of protection to the occupants as they race to crime scenes.

An ass of a policeman

The minister in charge (Minister of Safety and Security), Charles Nqakula offers a “better” suggestion; they should ride bicycles or donkeys to those crime scenes or get out of the police force. It might sound rhetorical or metaphorical, but I think he is deathly serious.

Bicycles, I can understand, but then how do you get the suspect back to the police station for charging and questioning as part of your investigation and prosecution process.

Now, there no way any policeman who mounts an ass is going to command the authority to take charge or exude the seriousness that entertains a crime scene; even if he had a gun, he would be a jumped up version of the milky-bar kid.

If the policeman had to chase after offenders, an ass or donkey is hardly the kind of runner for that sort of thing, they are more beasts of burden; you could probably lay dead men on the donkey but not criminals.

Arrest this stupidity

The minister with a past career in journalism is probably good at writing fantasy stories but serious crime affects lives, people, property and economies at large.

He should be addressing the core issue of ensuring that the police force is equipped to meet the challenges of a 21st Century South African society.

Headline grabbing sound bites that pour scorn and ridicule on the people of South Africa would not do, in fact, it would appear that a background in law enforcement or the military would be better suited for this job.

Political appointments

It would appear there are some ministerial appointments of convenience in very sensitive positions where the said ministers become untouchables even though they are performing no beneficial ministerial function for their people.

What leaves one astounded is that many end up pontificating in such a way that their heads do not check what their mouths are saying, however, it is the chief executive, the head of government we should hold responsible for making appointments where possibly better qualified citizens are available to do a better job for their people.

The Finance Minister in Nigeria is yet to prove herself, but the tow South African ministers reviewed here have proved that we probably can get donkeys to do better jobs than they are doing.

It is time for the president to move the war on corruption to the next stage; a war on ministerial incompetence.

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