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Van Rooyen: I’m ready to be deployed anytime

There’s a saying from the animated series South Park that could be an appropriate illustration of Tuesday’s press conference. 

In South Park, a character called Officer Barbrady is well-known for pretending that crime scenes do not exist. “Move along. Nothin’ to see here,” he says, every time someone asks him what took place behind the yellow tape.

On Tuesday, newly appointed Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), Des Van Rooyen made his debut appearance in front of the press. It was a day after his appointment, and his aides say he had barely been briefed by his new staff complement by the time he addressed the media. 

While his address was squarely focused on the department’s plans to support local municipalities, it would have been quite understandable if he was not yet familiar with the finer details of his new role. 

But what was expected was an explanation of the circumstances under which Van Rooyen was appointed. There could be no other reason for the urgency of the press conference, when the minister had barely acquainted himself with the ministry’s wifi password.

But Van Rooyen chose to do the opposite. In a brief, light statement, he explained that the department had a plan called “Back-to-Basics”, which he intended to continue implementing. The plan involved “putting people first, promoting good governance”, and other values.

He went on to explain that his experience as a mayor and an MP on Parliament’s finance committee gave him unique experience, perfect for a minister of local government.

Focused on the future
On the traditional affairs front, Van Rooyen decried the existence of fake initiation schools. He announced a new hotline where concerned people could report initiation-related incidents. At one point, he was asked to give a breakdown of how many initiated-related deaths there were in each province. Van Rooyen glanced down at his notes, where the answers were conveniently available.

Municipalities affected by the drought would receive assistance. All municipalities would be assisted in improving their infrastructure and financial management skills. 

But Van Rooyen was the minister of finance for four days before he assumed his current role. What had happened behind the scenes that precipitated his hiring and firing? 

Van Rooyen was unfazed by the question. He said it was important to keep focused on the future, and to stop focusing on the past. He was sure the ANC had made a good decision, he added. 

“Nevertheless, I must indicate that, as a humble servant of the glorious movement of the ANC, from an early age of 16 years, I’m ready to be deployed to anywhere, at any time. Even if its for two hours, even if its for four days, even if it’s tomorrow. I’m ready,” Van Rooyen said.

A few more questions related to municipal debt were fielded, and answered predictably (“there are steps in place; we will consult with stakeholders”), Van Rooyen confirmed that his name is, in fact, Des, and the minister left the room.

Move along. Nothing to see here.

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Sarah Evans
Sarah Evans

Sarah Evans interned at the Diamond Fields Advertiser in Kimberley for three years before completing an internship at the Mail & Guardian Centre for Investigative Journalism (amaBhungane). She went on to work as a Mail & Guardian news reporter with areas of interest including crime, law, governance and the nexus between business and politics. 

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