Left hand, right hand


Gah! They’ve done it again! Left the media invites to absolutely the last minute! It is so annoying, downright inconsiderate and therefore insulting! Grrrr!

This afternoon, at 3.54pm, I received an invitation to the DoD/DTI Industry Day at 7am tomorrow morning. Was the event planned this afternoon? Really? Then what’s the excuse for this late invitation? I already have several meetings tomorrow. Must I now cast them aside at the last minute because the DoD could not care less?

This is an old problem, of course, this inability or unwillingness of the DoD to send out press releases longer than 24 hours ahead of time. I’ve been in the business since 1995 and it was an issue even then. Peter McIntosh of African Armed Forces has been in the industry since 1975, and its been an issue for him for decades as well. And we’re all fed-up. The corps of defence advisors in Pretoria recently missed attending the public day for Exercise Young Eagle for the same reason: the invites arrived after 4pm, their go-home time, the day before. The thing is the DoD does know better. Just yesterday, they sent out another invitation, for a further event, in Bloemfontein, also tomorrow.

But it gets worse. The Industry Day invite reads in part: “Media is invited to cover the key note address by Secretary for Defence, Ms Mpumi Mpofu, scheduled to commence at 08h48 until 09h30. Members of the media will be also afforded an opportunity to cover Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla’s speech at 16h30 until 17h00.” Sofari sogoodi, as Churchill said.

An hour before, I received an advisory from the office of the deputy minister, saying the “Deputy Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Mr Thabang Makwetla, will tomorrow, 17 March 2011, deliver opening remarks at the Seminar between the Department of Defence and defence industry role players in Pretoria.” The time given is 08H45.

So who is opening? The deputy minister or the SecDef? Two press releases, two alternatives.

The two events were not the only ones scheduled for tomorrow. The SANDF yesterday also issued an invitation for a media breakfast with the Chief of the Army. That was, however, postponed this morning. Caramba! Does the left hand know what the right hand is doing? Does the left hand know what it is doing?

It reminds me of the press release last month inviting the media to a change-of-command parade at Makhado. The release referred, variously, to 3 Air Service Unit, 5 Air Servicing Unit, 3 Air Serving Unit and 5 Air Service Unit. Four choices in half-a-page!

It seem high tide for communicators at the DoD at present. Every time I turn there is a new addition to the crew. Is it too much to ask for them to check the nomenclature – and every now and then perhaps grammar and spelling? Is there a language graduate somewhere who can help? There should be sufficient capacity, also, to maintain a diary somewhere so to prevent three events on the same day. Ye gads man!