Phillip de Wet: Replace Angie with our very own Maggie

Sadly, Maggie (as I like to think of her when I dream of what might have been, had I only been 50 years or so older and had our eyes met across a crowded room) is no longer in the business of cracking heads and making grown men cry. Though it may be inadvisable, even now, to be so rude as to mention her age; surely even very near on a hundred years of living could not yet have quenched the demonic fire that burns within her.

But if only we could have her. The Right Honourable Baroness Thatcher (LG, OM, PC, FRS, and, let's face it, total sex bomb) never could stand bullying, except when she was dishing it out, and showed an unalloyed hatred for organised groups that thought they could hold her country to ransom.

If you were to accurately yet tastefully portray in film her handling of the most powerful trade unions in Britain, it would be best to use a series of art-house cut scenes: a pair of daintily gloved hands holding a running chainsaw; a pair of human testicles strapped to a wooden table; light glinting from smiling teeth; darkness, with just the sound of agonised screaming. It was, in a word: brutal.

Now consider the delicious prospect of unleashing such a hell-fiend on our education system.

EduSolutions, and corrupt or uncaring or utterly incompetent bureaucrats are the villains of the moment, but there are many arses that need kicking in the education space.

The South African Democratic Teachers Union has become a thoughtless machine designed to realise the dream of not a few salaried employees: to do the minimum amount of work for the maximum amount of pay, with no accountability for performance or lack thereof.

Parents, on average, seem disinterested in the schooling of their children, meekly accepting everything that is wrong with the system when they should be brandishing pitchforks.

Kids intent on maintaining their own ignorance inflict the same on their peers, making schools unsafe and unproductive places for those who really do want to learn. Provincial departments are, almost universally, dysfunctional in the extreme.

Oh yes, there are many groups and individuals who need to be grabbed by the scruff of the neck and given a good shaking. But doing so will cause chaos and confusion – initially – and will be wildly unpopular as things get worse before they get better.

What we need is somebody who can stay the course even as denunciation rains down, somebody who can stand being hated by some in perpetuity, in order to save the future. In other words, somebody like dear Maggie, who could sit stone-faced and listen to stories of miners starving, or the matric pass-rate plummeting, in order to fix a broken system.

Ideally we need Maggie, or a reasonable facsimile thereof, as minister of basic education for a term or three, with the political untouchability necessary to take on unions, parents, and entrenched bureaucrats, and provide an object lesson that future generations will still feel in their very bones.

Then, with the dirty work out of the way, we could put a technocrat or a touchy-feely management type in charge again to sooth the hurt and claim the glory.

As it happens, South Africa does harbour just such a person, somebody with enormous authority, the capacity for pitiless action, a proven track record of getting down and dirty, and something of a need to cement an end-of-career legacy. Is it dangerous, unleashing such a combination of sheer power and unpredictability? Absolutely. But we don't have a lot of options left.

It's time to put Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in charge of schools, and pray for the souls of all those who get in her way.


Mabuza’s ‘distant relative’ scored big

Eskom’s woes are often because of boiler problems at its power plants. R50-billion has been set aside to fix them, but some of the contracts are going to questionable entities

ANC faction gunning for Gordhan

The ambush will take place at an NEC meeting about Eskom. But the real target is Cyril Ramaphosa

Despite tweet, Zuma keeps silent about providing his taxpayer information

The Public Protector has still not received confirmation from former president Jacob Zuma that she may access his tax records —...

Ahead of WEF, Mboweni will have to assure investors that...

The finance minister says despite the difficult fiscal environment, structural reforms are under way to put SA on a new growth path

Press Releases

New-style star accretion bursts dazzle astronomers

Associate Professor James O Chibueze and Dr SP van den Heever are part of an international team of astronomers studying the G358-MM1 high-mass protostar.

2020 risk outlook: Use GRC to build resilience

GRC activities can be used profitably to develop an integrated risk picture and response, says ContinuitySA.

MTN voted best mobile network

An independent report found MTN to be the best mobile network in SA in the fourth quarter of 2019.

Is your tertiary institution is accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Is your tertiary institution accredited?

Rosebank College is an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education, which is registered with the Department of Higher Education and Training.

VUT chancellor, Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi, dies

The university conferred the degree of Doctor of Science Honoris Causa on Dr Xolani Mkhwanazi for his outstanding leadership contributions to maths and science education development.

Innovate4AMR now in second year

SA's Team pill-Alert aims to tackle antimicrobial resistance by implementing their strategic intervention that ensures patients comply with treatment.

Medical students present solution in Geneva

Kapil Narain and Mohamed Hoosen Suleman were selected to present their strategic intervention to tackle antimicrobial resistance to an international panel of experts.