The worst spokesman in government?
Because GroundUp is currently based in Cape Town, many of our stories deal with difficult issues for the local government here. Yet despite the often harsh criticisms of the City of Cape Town that appear on our website, the City’s media department nearly always responds to our queries professionally. The same goes for the South African Police Service.
But there is a government department that can be relied upon consistently to be unreliable. Because one of our areas of focus is immigrants, we often seek comment from Home Affairs. We very seldom get a response, even though we frequently delay publication in order to give the ministry or department a chance to respond.
Take for example our story published today Zimbabweans fear deportation as Home Affairs bungles special permit process. Our reporter sent several emails and made a bunch of telephone calls. Occasionally he got hold of someone but was essentially fobbed off. This is a repeat of what happens nearly every time we run a story dealing with Home Affairs. Here is a description of our reporter’s efforts:
Despite numerous attempts, GroundUp has not been able to get a response from Home Affairs. Spokesperson Mayihlome Tshwete has not responded to our emails. After several telephone calls an official by the name of Winnie told GroundUp that Tshwete was out the country and that we should email another spokesperson Thabo Mokgola. We also spoke to him on the phone. He promised a response by 3pm on 30 July, but failed to provide one. We also managed to get hold of Gerson Muti but he said he does not speak to the media.
Not mentioned by our reporter is his unanswered email to the Director General of Home Affairs.
On the Home Affairs website Mayihlome Tshwete is listed as the Ministerial Spokesperson & Media Liaison. Mr Tshwete didn’t have time to answer our reporter. He does appear to have been out the country. In fact he was probably in Switzerland. We know this from his Twitter account. Mr Tshwete is an enthusiastic tweeter. He joined Twitter in November 2012. Since then he has tweeted over 63,000 times. That’s an average of over 60 tweets a day.
30 July, the day we expected his response, was a relatively quiet day on Twitter for him, perhaps because he was in Switzerland. He only tweeted 23 times. Presumably he was working, though, because there was no message on his email explaining he was on vacation and suggesting who to contact.
Twice he tweeted responses to people asking for help from Home Affairs by merely referring them to the Home Affairs Twitter account. Otherwise the closest he came to tweeting about something relevant to his work was this:
‘And in international news “Immigration, Immigration, Immigration”’
He also tweeted twice that the UK had rejected Chinese artist Ai Weiwei’s visa application. Perhaps this made him feel better about Home Affairs rejecting the Dalai Lama’s visa application?
His tweets offer many sagely insights:
The reporting on StatsSA Labour Quarterly Survey is very very weird.
Salif Keita’s Tomorrow is impossible to find, iTunes is useless.
We learn about the Swiss:
Switzerland has an abundance of young women with old men. Don’t feel bad SA old timers.
Forget the infrastructure and the low unemployment rate, I knew Switzerland was developed when I saw 2 ply in a public toilet
And his discovery of European inefficiency has reassured him of his own value:
European service is not better than South African. Word to the 6 God. We talk ourselves down too much.
He writes penetrating comments on the sociology of race:
Some white folks will debate with you on subject matter that you work in for 24/7 and still insist they know more than you.
Yet Mr Tshwete had no time to respond to requests for comment on Zimbabweans facing deportation because of problems with their permits. Not even a tweet for our reporter.
This is not unusual. Mr Tshwete nearly always fails to respond to our requests for comment.
Home Affairs did refer us to Thabo Mokgola, Mr Tshwete’s colleague. It’s not clear what his excuse for failing to respond to us was, because he wasn’t tweeting on 30 July.
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