Was there ever a sadder face in all of creation’s dark and shining wonder? Have any of us ever seen an expression as troubled and hurt, woe-filled eyes so haunted by disappointment, sorrow and fear that we cannot even begin to imagine what harrowing heartbreak and grief this person has suffered?
We are of course talking about Angie Motshekga. Even as I write I understand that, over in Hollywood, the Disney and Pixar animators have been filing away recent photographs of the Basic Education minister — and there certainly have been plenty of those, what with the Limpopo education crisis slugging it out toe-to-toe with the Olympics for space in the fishwraps — as reference material for the next time they’re called upon to anthropomorphise, for purposes of motion picture entertainment, some wounded bear or unhappy dinosaur.
All may not be well on Motshekga’s watch, but hope springs eternal. It really does.
From Monday, a hotline will be available to establish how many schools in Limpopo are still without textbooks. This is despite the fact that, almost a month ago, an investigation by former Higher Education director-general Mary Metcalfe found that, nearly two-thirds through the year, more than 3 300 schools had yet to receive books.
“Metcalfe,” one newspaper bluntly reported, “recommended several strategies to prevent the collapse of education in Limpopo. A hotline was not one of them.”
But so what? School principals will now be able to pick up the telephone and report that they have no textbooks, or too many of them, or whatever textbook crisis they may be having.
Here at the Mahogany Ridge we’re taking it for granted that someone has been allocated the task of at least picking up the telephone at the other end. We were initially puzzled about who the principals may have called in the past should there have problems of this nature, but that is all academic; that was then, this is now, there’s a hotline, and that’s that — progress.
The hotline, of course, is one of the great initiatives of the Jacob Zuma era. Who could ever forget that day in September 2009 when the presidential complaints hotline was launched to deal with service delivery issues? It received 7 261 calls in its first three hours of operation, two of which were personally taken by the president himself. There was great excitement, I remember, and everywhere one heard talk of “speedy resolution”.
Motshekga, too, has not forgotten the giddiness of that moment, and has dutifully followed her president’s example.
Another of the president’s examples that she appears to be following is the pronounced disinclination for haste in matters of general urgency. “What’s this whole rush about?” she asked of reporters who had gathered at the Polokwane primary school where she had revealed all about the hotline.
To be utterly fair, the reporters, ingrates that they are, had somehow drifted off the subject of telephones and were now asking questions about her possible resignation. But Misery Guts was having none of that. The calls for her dismissal were, she said, premature.
“Wait for the presidential task team and take it from there. Now, no-one has been found guilty, so I really think it is very unbalanced and very unfair; that’s why I am refusing to answer that question. I say be patient. Wait. The president has received an interim report. It will come in your lifetime. It will come and then we will take things from there.”
One can only hope it will come in this lifetime. Your correspondent is a healthy 52. He feels there’s not much time left.
But on to a happier face, one for whom the lack of a proper education has never been an impediment — Jelly Tsotsi.
Much has been made of the safari to London, world capital of the imperialists, by the commender in chief of the revolutionary economic liberation forces, particularly the claim that his expulsion from the ruling party would be overturned “automatically” when Zuma is voted out of office at the leadership conference in Mangaung.
There is however, one aspect of the trip that has not been receiving much attention. Jelly’s feeling for Caster Semenya are well-known. You may remember how, in 2009, at the height of the controversy over her gender, gallant Jelly stepped up and declared at a press conference that, in his heart, no such doubt existed; she was beautiful.
Sadly, the commander has left London and won’t be seeing Semenya compete in the women’s 800m event on Wednesday. It’s a pity the sports minister, Fikile Mbalula, was not able help his old friend pursue his romantic interests.
One feels Caster would run a lot faster with Jelly after her.