SA ministers clear the air for a new style of government
Saturday 21 May 1994
When Mr Mandela took possession of the office last week, he remarked with just a little sadness that the aroma had gone. Mr de Klerk, he discovered, had taken the coffee machine away. Indeed, the new deputy president had stripped everything save the furniture. Had it not been for the kindness of officials in another government department, President Mandela would have had to start his first day at work in the Union Buildings without any stationery.
One of Mr Mandela's African National Congress ministers got his own back at the first cabinet meeting. Alert to the fact that the new Health Minister, Nkosazana Zuma, is allergic to cigarette smoke, the minister in question - a chain-smoker himself - magnanimously proposed there should be no smoking at cabinet meetings. Mr de Klerk, who often sneaks off to the corridors during parliamentary sittings for a puff, had no option but to bow once again to the will of the majority.
Thus, in lots of small ways, has the new order imposed itself on the style of government.
Mrs Zuma's aversion to nicotine, to take another example, does not extend to incense, the burning of which is a ritual commonly employed by witchdoctors, known locally as sangomas or traditional healers. The Health Minister announced on Wednesday that traditional healing would become 'an integral and recognised part of health care in South Africa'. She did note, however, that the exercise of traditional medicine would be regulated to prevent 'harmful practices'. Among these she might have included an old Zulu favourite - making potions out of human body parts.
Talking of wounds, a few old ones will need healing if the coalition cabinet is to serve the nation with the requisite harmony of purpose. Mangosuthu Buthelezi, the Minister of Home Affairs, might have been expected to behave with typical prickliness, having been called every name under the sun over the years by ANC officials - 'snake' and 'dog' come immediately to mind - and having been accused by Mr Mandela himself on one occasion of having his hands dripping with the blood of black people. But the word from cabinet sources is that Chief Buthelezi has so far proved to be tame and friendly as a puppy.
Just how Mr de Klerk will hit it off with the Minister of Prisons, another Inkatha man by the name of Sipho Mzimela, is another matter. In January this year Mr Mzimela said of Mr de Klerk: 'He was born a liar. He grew up a liar. He will die a liar. He will be a liar in hell.'
Senior civil servants at the Department of Water Affairs and Forestry will be anxious to know whether their new minister, Kader Asmal, is also a liar. On Thursday afternoon Professor Asmal, a law lecturer of Indian extraction who taught at Trinity College, Dublin, for 27 years, gave his first press conference. In a country subject to periodic drought where half the population do not have domestic access, at the best of times, to running water, his portfolio is not unimportant. But interest at the press conference focused on the fates of the half-dozen white bureaucrats sitting, apprehensive as rabbits, in the front row.
Tinus Erasmus, the department's suddenly humble director- general, assured Prof Asmal that he and his department were committed to serving the government of the day and were looking forward to building a mutually fruitful relationship.
Would Minister Asmal fire Mr Erasmus, the journalists wanted to know? 'Well, no, ahem, I'm lost for words. Ah, I mean, the question does not arise, does it?'
Mr Erasmus, Mr Coetzee, Mr Audie and Mr Krige stared at the floor. Later, over cocktail snacks, none of the bureaucrats had the temerity to point out to Prof Asmal, who was smoking a cigarette, a sign on the wall in Afrikaans requesting no smoking. However, a journalist did so and the minister promptly did what Mr de Klerk will be doing a lot more of in the coming years and left the room.
Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: PM says plane's communications 'deliberately disabled' as police raid pilots' homes
Seth Rogen compiles list of all the celebrities he’s got high with
Oscar Pistorius trial: Photographs of Paralympian splattered in blood after Reeva Steenkamp shooting shown in court
Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: New radar evidence suggests missing plane may have been hijacked
Katie Hopkins continues campaign to become Britain's most hated talking head with poorly timed Bob Crow tweet
No EU referendum under Labour: Ed Miliband to reveal that vote on membership is ‘unlikely’ in next Parliament if party wins power
Grace Dent: Who cares if she spells it Barraco Barner? Gemma Worrall is more employable than some bookish arts graduate
Europeans have ‘got whiter’ due to natural selection in past 5,000 years, scientists say
The rise of Ukip: Study warns Labour that Eurosceptic party's electoral base now 'more working class than any of the main parties'
Fracking is turning the US into a bigger oil producer than Saudi Arabia
- 1 Is your name now 'banned' in Saudi Arabia?
- 2 Best films on Netflix: 32 movies that will put an end to your scrolling
- 3 Istanbul protesters take 'Ellen selfie' from the back of a police van
- 4 Missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370: Jet ‘hijacking’ began soon after take-off
£50000 - £60000 per annum: Charter Selection: This well respected and exciting...
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Charter Selection: This exciting company and market...
£40000 - £60000 per annum + EXCELLENT SALARY: Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Cli...
£25,000 to £35,000: IT Connections Ltd: Signal Processing Engineer / Acoustics...