South Africa’s first daughter: development at its best

Mbabane, Swaziland | 30 July 2014
Bill Snaddon

Thuthukile: one who has achieved success, prospers; advanced; developed.

Let me take this opportunity to join the growing chorus of congratulation – not to mention the occasional ululation – for the daughter of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, the one and only Thuthukile. The First Daughter.

At the tender age of 25 she has climbed the heights of South Africa’s civil service. Miss Zuma has been appointed to a top job, a plum job – a real corker of a gig, if you will.

According to news reports, Thuthukile is now taking home almost R1 million a year (in taxpayers money) as the chief of staff of South Africa’s department of telecommunications and postal services.

“President Jacob Zuma’s daughter Thuthukile may have made history as South Africa’s youngest head of a minister’s office,” reported the South African media. “From a lowly public liaison officer to the powerful position of chief of staff within two months at the age of 25, she now earns almost a million rand a year.”

Along with a vague sense of déjà vu, my first thought on reading this was: I had no idea that a female could be a chief.

But after the initial sexism-laden shock had worn off, I thought a more sober thought: What a great opportunity – not to mention responsibility – for this upstanding young lady who recently matriculated from Westerford High School, Cape Town.

Moreover, I have little doubt that her sociology and anthropology degrees from Wits University will help to keep her mind focused on the big job at hand. According to the reports, Miss Zuma also dabbled in a bit of international relations at university. No doubt, then, she will hold steady on the ANC talking points of condemning Israel.

But we won’t know, exactly, how far her ANC support goes because she promptly deleted her Twitter and Instagram accounts – which allegedly and naturally had ANC support and telecommunications re-tweets written all over them – when the media began asking her questions. But it’s worth remembering that there’s nothing wrong with supporting Daddy’s political party, freedom of speech and all.

To be honest, though, I just couldn’t help but wonder: What is her secret? I mean, her CV reads like a short story squeezed into a fairy tale.

And here’s the really fun part – the jargon. According to a search of job advertisements – a fertile breeding ground for disjointed jargon – a chief of staff requires “extensive management experience, an understanding of ministerial services and parliamentary functions to take charge of the overall management of the ministry and blah blah blah.”

A further search by South Africa’s media found that a ministerial chief of staff usually requires at least five to 10 years experience at senior management level.

It seems she has quite the luck: Thuthukile also has a powerful mummy. The young dux is the youngest of the president’s four daughters with his ex-wife Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, the Queen of Jargon and a former cabinet member who is now chairperson of the African Union.

To snap out of my self-inflicted sarcasm, for a second, the sad reality is that Thuthukile – via an avalanche of jargon and backroom deals – is being used as a political pawn in an attempt to entrench the telecommunications power of her corrupt elders. But, then again, I could just be spreading scurrilous speculation, and the young lass may actually have got the job on her own merits. You never know.

This column was originally published in the Times of Swaziland on 30 July 2014

#32_South Africa's first daughter_30 July 2014

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