Minister overboard?

South Africa’s best health minister in living memory is in trouble. Barbara Hogan has largely won the favour of the public by being interested in her job, rather than pandering ideology, the forté of her predecessors, both post and pre-1994.
So what to make of her attack, in strong terms, on the government she is part of? Hogan is clearly unhappy with the Dalai Lama, revered nearly everywhere as a human rights icon, being denied a visa to visit South Africa to attend a peace conference that was to have been held tomorrow.   
“Just the very fact that this government has refused entry to the Dalai Lama is an example of a government who is dismissive of human rights,” Hogan said. “I believe [the government] needs to apologise to the citizens of this country, because it is in your name that this great man who has struggled for the rights of his country…has been denied access.”
Her comments reminded of a set of “PR Rules to live by” published in the British Financial Times on 26 May 2001 by James P Rubin, a Clinton-era State Department spokesman. He famously said: 
1.       If you don`t want to see it in print, don`t say it.
2.       You can say anything you want, but some things only once.
3.       It`s better to be right than fast.
4.       If you don`t have news, offer good food or a good place to visit.
5.       Talk about results. If you don`t have results, talk policy. If you don`t have policy, talk facts. If you don`t have facts talk process. You always have process.
6.       If it`s good news, the [Presidency] gets the credit.   
I was particularly thinking of rule number two. Cabinet ministers can indeed criticise their own government but generally only if they have already drafted a letter of resignation. In Britain, this type of situation is called “man overboard”.
What was her motive? Getting fired won`t help the country`s poor access decent healthcare. Hogan is 20th on the African National Congress election list, which by a rule-of-thumb means she should be back in Cabinet.  
Changing topics, Themba Maseko`s embarrassment at having to flip flop on what Cabinet – or at least Public Enterprises minister Bridgette Mabandla knew of a fat severance package for former SAA CEO Khaya Ngqula, certainly highlights Rubin`s rule number three. The problem, of course, was that Maseko thought he was right, that he did have all the facts. He can`t be blamed for a Cabinet minister sitting pretty on the truth.
That brings one to many other government “communicators”, who seem to believe “less is more”. It is not. Read Rule 5. Far be it from me to encourage more non-answers from this crew, but even a superficial reading of this Rubin rule shows there`s always plenty to say on anything.   
Peacekeeping Conference
We`re getting closer to June`s Peacekeeping 2009 conference on 24 and 25 June. We have some impressive speakers lined up and are in the final stages of getting even higher-profile leaders to address us on “10 Years of SANDF peacekeeping”. The Chief of Joint Operations, Lt Gen Themba Matanzima alerted us last month that this year indeed marks 10 years since South Africa deployed its first peacekeeper. Remarkable! Now is definitely the time to book your seat.  
Editors` Archive
On an administrative note: I have over the years built up quite an archive of previously published articles, most of which are not electronically available on the Internet. As a firm believer in “knowledge is power – if shared” I have started loading them into an Editors` Archive on defenceWeb. I warn you that it is a bit rough-and-ready but I hope it will be of some use to you. We use search-engine optimisation so some of the articles archived will come up as “related items”. I`m marking all such stories with the prefix “archive” to ensure we don`t get unduly confused between new posts and archive material. As a further safeguard, the latter will include a date of original publication either at the top or at the bottom. Enjoy!