A questionnaire for cabinet ministers

David Bullard drafts an aptitude test for those living like rockstars at taxpayer expense


To do most things in South Africa which are intended to earn you a living you either have to register with some or other body, get a licence to operate from another body, satisfy health regulations, pay a fee, pass some exams or generally show proof of competency. There is no end to the administrative hoops you have to jump through just to set up in the simplest business. This includes something as seemingly straightforward as driving an Uber taxi or becoming a tour guide.

Obviously, you wouldn’t want to employ the services of a doctor or a lawyer who hadn’t demonstrated some degree of competence (sorry Dali Mpofu) and it’s always comforting to know that there are all sorts of health safeguards regarding the sale of food. But here’s the rub as the Bard of Avon was wont to say. To become a member of parliament and particularly to become a cabinet minister in South Africa you don’t need any formal qualifications at all and, judging by the past performance of the ANC, you certainly don’t need to display any competence whatsoever. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Take the pot-bellied Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Gwede (the Tiger) Mantashe for example. The man is pulling a salary (notice I didn’t use the word ‘earning’) of well over R2million a year. He lives in free accommodation with all the usual maintenance and utility bills paid by the taxpayer, gets a couple of free luxury cars plus chauffeurs, has medical aid to avoid the need for public hospitals, full time security at his sponsored home, enjoys free airline travel down the sharp end, and, to quote Ivo Vegter in an article he wrote for the Daily Friend about the rock star lifestyles of our rather disappointing cabinet ministers:

The government pays their water and lights, up to R5 000 per month. The government pays their cellphone bills, up to R5 000 per month. The government pays for their computer equipment, internet access, wifi networks, and television subscription channels. The government pays for their full-time domestic staff.”

That’s a hell of a lot of lights and water even for a family of five and it’s a monstrously large amount for cellphone bills (my monthly bill is around R650) but it’s good to know that Gwede can watch football on DSTV at my expense or enjoy a Netflix series while he’s relaxing. And no worries about load shedding because we’ve bought them all generators and we pay for the fuel to keep them going at their Bryntirion mansions in Pretoria.

The government handbook also recommends that travelling ministers should be put up in five-star accommodation and have access to VIP lounges to keep them safe from the riff-raff.

It’s now pretty common knowledge that Gwede isn’t the sharpest of tools in the shed. When the names of Nobel prize winners are read out early next year I doubt if his name will be amongst them. But he is not alone. Most of his cabinet colleagues (although I’m tempted to say all) have proven beyond reasonable doubt that they are either terminally inept or simply just too modest to want to be regarded as remotely effective.

Which means that it’s high time South Africa embarked on a basic competency test for political leaders. I’m not so worried about the entry level for ordinary members of parliament because every parliament has its share of dross. Look at Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in the UK, for example. And the equally gormless Nicola Sturgeon who admittedly did rise to the dizzying height of first minister in Scotland despite not being able to spot that a woman with a penis isn’t actually a real woman.

It’s the ones that get into powerful positions that affect all our daily lives that bother me and so I think we need a basic aptitude test before we allow them to live rent free and like rock stars. What on earth do they do with a salary of over a R2mln a year when everything else in their lives is paid for by the taxpayer?

Question 1 - Russia has invaded a peaceful neighbouring country and is bombing innocent citizens in that country, destroying infrastructure and abducting children. The leader of that country now has an arrest warrant issued against him by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Bearing in mind that South Africa’s international business transactions are substantially less with Russia than they are with Russia’s NATO aligned adversaries whose side do you think it would be smart to be on?

a) Russia

b) NATO allies and trade partners

c) Not sure

Question 2 - It’s common knowledge that our public hospitals are barely functioning thanks to a combination of sheer bloody mindedness, managerial incompetence and corruption. Therefore this would be a great time to build on the public’s confidence in the healthcare system to introduce a hugely expensive healthcare system for all under the banner of NHI even if this would drive medical practitioners to emigrate. What do you think?

a) Great idea

b) Are you mad?

c) Not sure

Question 3 - The confidence in a country’s economy and its ability to attract foreign investment is related to how that economy is run. For example, if the communist favoured model of state control is adopted and all the state owned enterprises become inefficient and/or bankrupt this is not a good look as far as future investment is concerned.

a) Colonialist propaganda

b) You may have a point

c) I don’t understand the question

Question 4 - One of the problems facing many countries today is that of unemployment and, more particularly, youth unemployment. In order to create jobs should the government..

a) Expand the state bureaucracy with artificially created jobs?

b) Create a thriving business environment in which entrepreneurs are encouraged?

c) Cop out by handing out Basic Income payments?

Question 5 - In many countries the leader of a political party with seats in parliament calling for the overthrow of the state and inciting violent revolution and looting would be regarded as a terrorist and would be arrested and tried on charges of sedition and treason. Is this reasonable?

a) Seems a bit drastic

b) Definitely

c) Spoilsports

I wouldn’t want to tax our cabinet members with too many complex issues since they aren’t really used to accounting to mere members of the public but I think if they scored mainly B’s in the short questionnaire we should probably allow them to continue to live like rock stars at our expense.

My suspicion though is that they would almost certainly stay true to form and score straight A’s.


We have always been warned by our bankers to be on the look out for scam e-mails so when I received notification on, of all days, the 13th March that a sum of money was incoming and I would have to fill in a form with all sorts of personal details to tell the authorities what the source of the money was I was immediately wary.

It was an amount that was completely perplexing to me and I wasn’t familiar with the name of the sender either. But what raised my suspicion was this instruction:

Kindly advice if funds must be credit at spot rat and advice the reason of funds in order for funds to be released”

So I immediately sent an e-mail to my bankers alerting them to what was obviously a fraud. I mean, apart from the halting grammar there are no less than four spelling mistakes. My bankers came back and assured me that the e-mail was genuine and that there were indeed incoming funds waiting for my ‘advice’.

I have been expecting a pension payment going back ten years from a company I worked for in the UK but the amount I received made no sense and I obviously couldn’t fill in the form to release the funds so I contacted the pension fund administrators in the UK who were very helpful.

It seems that South Africa has slipped off the currency radar in the UK because instead of ZAR I was credited with SAR (Saudi Arabian Rials) which are not much use if you’re shopping at my local Checkers. Happily it has all been sorted out now but I am still very confused as to how to recognise a genuine scam banking e-mail in the future.

Maybe the banks need to invest in ChatGPT4.


I’m off to Leopard Creek for a five-day thrash to celebrate a couple of 70th birthdays with wonderfully generous old friends this week and will not have access to a laptop or connectivity. So Out to Lunch won’t be appearing on 28th March but it will be back, sobriety permitting, on April 4th.