I was not paying much attention to the issue reported in the media about Thuthukile Zuma until I saw another young black South African graduate’s damning comments on the matter. What shocked me is that the same young person who was condemning the appointment of Thuthukile has a jobthey do not deserve and they earn a salary that is way above their experience and qualifications.The main difference between this young man and Thuthukile is that his father is not the president of the country. Otherwise they are both very capable young black graduates with not much experience who are given an employment opportunity by someone who has complete confidence in them and wants to support them. Unlike the young man, Thuthukile is being called all sorts of names in the media because she happens to be the daughter of the president. If she had a different father many people would not even have noticed that the Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services has appointed a new Chief of Staff. Like the young man criticizing her, Thuthukile would have continued with the job undisturbed. My view is that the fact that Thuthukile is a 25 year old with not much experience is very irrelevant in this this furore. Even if she was older and had the experience her appointment to a senior position such as this one would have still raised eyebrows from critics who are angry with her father. Whatever their achievements President Zuma’s children will never be regarded as deserving by critics. I applaud Thuthukile for taking her future seriously and ensuring that she gets the education that she has acquired. In fact I encourage her to study further and get her doctorate because she can. My word to the young people who have been given opportunities like her, I say, remember that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones – you have been given an opportunity you do not deserve so focus on making the most of it and stop criticizing others in your position.
Please remember that you do not have to agree with me, however, disagreement does not mean we are enemies or that we have to be disrespectful to one another. What I have written above has nothing to do with the ruling party or the current president, it is just my independent view, which is informed by my believe in smart young people, especially graduates, and my commitment to giving them opportunities even if sometimes they may not have the requisite experience. I know that I am here because many years ago someone believed in me even when I did not have the requisite experience. Back in 1990, I was appointed acting principal of a new school with only one year experience of teaching – the interview panel were so impressed with my performance at the interview that after interviewing seven of us young graduates they chose me as acting principal despite the fact that I was the second youngest in the group. In 2005 I was appointed Director of the Marang Centre for Maths and Science Education at Wits University with no academic/university management experience at all even though there were people in the team who were more qualified and experienced than I was. In both situations I did my best. Was I perfect? No! Were there mess ups? Yes, mess ups can happen even when the incumbent is experienced. Here I am today and everything that I call experience I acquired because some group of people sat in some room somewhere after my interview and made a decision to give me the opportunity.
So what am I saying? When it comes to capable graduates who show great potential, I am willing to take chances and give people an opportunity. That is exactly what I did a few years ago when I recruited 16 young black IT/IS/CS honours graduates right here on Face book and offered them an opportunity to become academics. None of them qualified to be an academic and so I put a two year program in place to get them the experience as soon as possible. Fifteen of them are still here and some of them are busy with their doctorates as we speak and one day some of them will be professors and that is how we build capacity. My career as a manager is full of such examples and so for me Thuthukile’s situation is NOT new and it is certainly not different from the situations of many young people I have given opportunities to. If you are one of those young people then you can be happy that you are not related to the president, otherwise you would have been called many nasty things by now.