Mantashe’s on spin dial, I recall

Hold the line: Minister Gwede Mantashe, aka The Mind Switcher, has been at it again. How will we know when he’s finished changing his mind on any particular issue? (Delwyn Verasamy)

Hold the line: Minister Gwede Mantashe, aka The Mind Switcher, has been at it again. How will we know when he’s finished changing his mind on any particular issue? (Delwyn Verasamy)


It’s the last big push before print deadline. Thankfully.

It’s been a long, dreadful week. It kicked off badly before it even started.
My cellphone gave up the ghost on Sunday, sparking a small crisis.

It’s a tad difficult to cover the political goings-on in Mpumalanga, Jozi and the Eastern Cape from Durban with no phone, hence the small panic.

The cellphone drama didn’t last long. The Pakistani cat down the road managed to get the older cellphone that this one had replaced going again on Monday morning. A quick swapping of SIM cards and I was back in business. It will take a bit of time to get all the contact numbers sorted out, but at least I’m functional.

I shouldn’t squeal about the phone dying though. I bartered my man Charles Bronson for it a couple of years ago. It was already four years old then. Bronson’s into toys, and gets a new contract every two years, so I hit him for one of his old cellphones when my last one died.

I have no intention of ever buying a new phone again. There’s no need — unless the xenophobes among us get their way and we’re left at the mercy of the cellphone companies — so why bother?

Despite having a phone, Monday and Tuesday didn’t deliver much. A combination of people being in council or Parliament all day and others wandering into the Kruger National Park and out of cellphone reach meant there wasn’t a lot of success until Wednesday morning.

After a small flurry of filing, the rest of Wednesday was rough. Voicemail messages. Killed calls. SMS messages to call back later. A whole eight hours or so of fruitless phone calls. Things aren’t much better “later”, so it’s 9am on Thursday by the time I come right. Partially. At least there’s some copy to file. The rest will have to wait for next week. One can only deliver what one has, after all.

Pressure’s off. For now. I start checking through the contacts in the “new” cellphone. Some of them are pretty ancient. There are a good few dead people. A couple who should be dead.

Under G I find Gwede Mantashe’s digits, back from when he was ANC secretary general. I wonder if this is the same one Lerato got hold of him on to arrange meetings with the Tiger?


Jacob Zuma always had his own non-presidential issued cellphone when he was head of state. One his PA and the minders didn’t touch. Why not Mantashe?

There’s a pretty reasonable chance that the minerals and energy minister hung on to the phone when he moved into government. Lerato excluded, Mantashe has a reputation for being stingy — at least with his own money — from his days at the National Union of Mineworkers. I don’t see him tossing the phone just because of a Cabinet appointment. Being on the state payroll didn’t stop our man accepting a free security system, so my money’s on the phone being active still.

I hit dial. I’ve been trying to get hold of Gwede since he mantashed again last week when denied bribing journalists to kill the story about him, Lerato and finance minister. The call goes straight to a recorded message. Not from the honourable minister but from the service provider.

Fair enough. I’ll keep on trying. Maybe he keeps it hidden under the spare wheel in the ministerial car. Whips it out whenever he gets the need. If I keep at it I’ll get him eventually.

It’s going to be weird interviewing Mantashe — when he eventually comes out of hiding and accounts for his behaviour.

Farcical, actually. After his admission to lying to get the Sunday World off his ass, whatever Mantashe says is going to be questionable. Subject to subsequent correction, as it were.

I pity Mantashe’s spin team. How do you spin on behalf of somebody who is probably conning you? How can you issue a statement on his behalf, knowing that he may have changed his mind about what he’s saying before the ink of the release has dried?

I predict a pretty fast turnover in Mantashe’s media office in the months to come.

It won’t be much better for us when we interview the man, knowing he’s capable of lying. Like I said, it’s going to be weird.

Perhaps the best approach will be to ask Mantashe each question twice. Or three times. Or follow each question with an “are you sure, minister” to give him the chance to mantashe.

Perhaps the most progressive approach is to give our man questions in multiple choice format, with the proviso that he is allowed to choose more than one, of course, just to ensure that he provides something that vaguely resembles a straight answer.

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