Fikile the Clown fails to fix, instead he struts

South Africa’s class clown, Fikile Mbalula, who also moonlights as minister of transport, did (another) stupid thing recently. Barely two weeks into the invasion of Ukraine, he tweeted from his official account that he was in that country, despite there being no evidence of such.

For context, those lounging in the black, green and gold Big Top who decide on policy in times like this — Fikile The Clown’s handlers, if you will — have found it difficult to condemn Russia for starting a war and not demanding that it immediately withdraw its forces from Ukraine. They abstained from such a vote at the United Nations last week. 

Fikile’s attention-seeking tweet made it appear that he was honking his nose at anyone who thought otherwise and was trivialising a war from which millions of people — including South African citizens — have been trying to escape.

The Ukraine invasion or war, two descriptions that will get a journalist working in Russia imprisoned for up to 15 years if they dare describe the “special operation” as such, has triggered the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II.

It has resulted in spiking oil prices and has put significant South African investments in Russia — such as Bell Equipment, Barloworld and Naspers — which all leveraged our once much vaunted Brics status, in significant peril.

When confronted about the lie by journalist Ziyanda Ngcobo at an event this week, Fikile refused to answer. Thereafter followed an exchange between the two on Twitter.  

Mkhuleko Hlengwa, the chairperson of the standing committee on public accounts, also eventually shot questions Fikile’s way.

Another journalist accused him of being “facetious” about “grave matters”  to which Fikile retorted with a characteristically incoherent reply.  

Fikile uses his Twitter profile to comment about his personal interests and his role as a government minister. Unfortunately, what he says matters, thus he cannot simply be given a free pass.

The social network has become a critical vehicle for the Ukrainian government to communicate with its population throughout the still fledgling invasion. Former US president Donald Trump used it to successfully run for president. Twitter is a hugely influential digital weapon.

Fikile calls himself “Mr Fix It” as he huffs and puffs in a portfolio where everything is breaking or broken. The country’s driver’s licence renewal regime is deeply corrupt and is run by cartels; the railway network and related infrastructure has been stripped, costing the country billions of rands in lost revenue; the Road Accident Fund is still battling years of abuse. Fikile is still unable to decide on the fate of eTolls, despite numerous promises that he would.

Instead of fixing, Fikile struts. He bloviates. All the while documenting it on Twitter. How reassuring it would be to one day see him physically filling the myriad potholes in just one kilometre of any chosen road in the country.

There is no good reason to keep this jester in a ministerial position. His strength lies only in his ability to mobilise for his chosen ANC cadres. Let them take him.

One would assume that Cyril Ramaphosa realises that one is judged by the company one keeps, but the president appears to be happy to be an enabler, to surround himself with a cabinet crammed with clowns. So what does that make him?

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