by Douglas Gibson
Naledi Pandor, the new minister of International Relations, is one of the brightest intellects in Parliament. She is an effective speaker and she takes no prisoners in a debate. What a surprise it was to see her take almost a week to deal with the raging Zindzi Mandela controversy. When she finally did so, she only just passed the test as a minister in her new portfolio. But then, believe it or not, 30% has become the new benchmark.
South Africa’s ambassador to Denmark, Her Excellency Ms Zindzi Mandela, recently indulged in a racist rant on Twitter. She attacked white South Africans, condemning them in shockingly racist generalisations. Anyone, even an ambassador after a jolly drink or three, may incautiously do something stupid. When she carries on Tweeting for hours, the matter becomes more serious. It is unacceptable behaviour by an ambassador.
Ms Mandela is not a person of any particular personal distinction. She owes her appointment to the “old -girl” network; she is Winnie Madikizela Mandela’s daughter. She forgets that she is supported in great style by the taxpayers of South Africa, many of whom are white.
She is perfectly entitled to her own views about the land question and about white people whom she describes as land thieves. She is also entitled to oppose the Freedom Charter and the Constitution of South Africa while supporting the EFF view. She should just keep her mouth shut about it. Or resign. Julius Malema would find a place for her in Parliament because it was noticeable that many of those who sped to her defence on Twitter were EFF groupies.
Contrary to her belief, not all white people stole land. I certainly did not; nor did my father and mother; or my grandparents on both sides. Before that, who knows? My wife and I inherited no land; the townhouse we own we bought with a bond 20 years ago. How dare you make us figures of hate because we are white.
It is demeaning to have a person like her representing us in Denmark. What do Danes think of the South African ambassador? A senior foreign diplomat, not from Denmark, was heard to say that Ms Mandela’s conduct was unheard of anywhere in the world; no other country would put up with nonsense like hers.
Minister Pandor, after agonising days of delay, finally phoned the ambassador and, she says, reprimanded Mandela, telling her that she had to act like an ambassador and observe the social media policy. We do not know whether Mandela promised to be good in future.
Pandor explained the ridiculous delay by saying she was not fully briefed about the Tweets. Why was the minister not properly briefed? It is inexcusable for her to be so ill-served but the truth is that four days passed with the department unable to contact Mandela “because she was travelling.”
Someone asked whether the ambassador was riding on a camel in the desert, or travelling around the world in 80 days. It is mandatory for ambassadors to stay in contact with Pretoria at all times. Mandela seems able to ignore this. Was she also choked off for this breach of discipline? And did she obtain departmental approval to leave Denmark when the department was looking for her? It seems that she was attending a concert in Paris. Was she just being herself and doing her own thing, or did the department forget that she had received permission to go off on holiday?
Other DIRCO officials need to be assured that there is not one rule for Winnie’s daughter and a different set of rules to be ignored, or not, by her. Pandor has not covered herself in glory. And Mandela seems to have got away with it.
(This first appeared as my regular column in The Star)