Gigaba versus Thlabi – lets get ready to rumble!


eNCA reports that Malusi Gigaba has threatened legal action against journalist Redi Tlhabi over her claims that he introduced the requirement that people traveling with minors needed an unabridged birth certificate due to a personal issue.

This all comes after the recent announcement on how South Africa would relax its rules regarding travel with minors – so that an unabridged birth certificate is now recommended rather than required.

According to Tlhabi, the introduction of these regulations followed Gigaba’s ex wife travelling with his daughter without his permission.

Gigaba responded by pointing to the children’s act:

You can read the act here – it is important to note that Tlhabi is talking about the visa requirements that Gigaba introduced in 2015, and the Childrens Act does not require that people travelling with minors present their long-form birth certificates.

He also pointed to the immigration act of 2011, as if to show that it wasn’t his decision to change the regulations:

I looked up the named amendment – which you can read here.

I did a word search for the word “child” – and it only came up once as part of a section that was being done away with.

I then looked up “birth certificate” and that doesn’t come up at all.

Of course Gigaba also said this:

Which has been ANC politicians’ standard means of avoiding having to deal with the topic of their incompetence for ages now.

Tlhabi responded further, but I think this is enough.

My Take

According to The Conversation, Ramaphosa, when he led the National Union of Mineworkers, prevented the publication in South Africa of a report on AIDS in the mining community way back the the 1980s before the pandemic struck in earnest.

The report predicted an AIDs pandemic in South Africa and the region. It recommended that the NUM introduce a systematic educational programme on safe sex, provide its members with condoms, and campaign for the abolition of the migrant labour system so men could live with their partners and their families.

When the then NUM general secretary, Cyril Ramaphosa, first saw the report he was outraged. He demanded that we not publish it. He accused the researchers and SWOP of racism as the report, he said, was pathologising the sexuality of black men. We insisted on grounds of academic freedom that the research be published. Today Ramaphosa is deputy president of South Africa and chairs the South African National AIDS Council, which drives the fight against HIV/AIDS in the country.

Careful negotiations took place between the NUM and SWOP over the presentation and publication of the research. We finally reached a compromise: we would moderate the language of the report and the findings would be published in an academic journal abroad but not in South Africa.

Now the funny thing is, I don’t entirely hold this against Ramaphosa, despite how big a disaster this caused.

Ramaphosa has since this incident consistently pushed the fight against AIDS, and has also taken emotionally difficult positions which have been recommended by researchers. Ramaphosa learned the dangers of letting emotions overrule science, and thus I don’t hold this against him because I don’t think he’d made the same mistake again.

I have some respect for a person who accepts that they did wrong – and tries to fix it.

Gigaba has had a humiliating year so far. His term as finance minister was short and bitter, and the policy most identified with him, the change to documentation required to travel with minors, has been reversed quite explicitly on the grounds that it was stupid.

And so far as I can see it was indeed his policy. The immigration act that Gigaba points to doesn’t say a thing about unabridged birth certificates.

Which makes sense because otherwise it would take an act of parliament to get rid of that requirement; neither the minister nor the president would have that power.

If Gigaba can relax the regulation, then he’s responsible for it.

Now I don’t know what motivated Gigaba in making that rule, I’m not psychic, but what I can see here is yet another ANC politician who isn’t owning his own stuff-ups, and instead trying to deflect anger onto some unknown ‘incorrigible racists” – demonstrating yet again how racism is maintained in our country by our leadership because it is such a useful tool for avoiding responsibility.

Someone can make mistakes, huge consequential mistakes, and yet still be worthy of respect due to how they try and correct their mistakes.

If we never accept that people can change then progress is impossible because why should they change?

But in Gigaba’s case I’m not seeing that, I’m seeing someone clinging to their pride and losing all dignity in the process.

  • Picture courtesy of GCIS via Flickr.

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