Home this evening after an early start to a day out in the colleges, my thoughts turned to Marakele National Park and the weekend of game viewing and barbecuing and chilling out on the deck of our luxury tent that Rob and I have just enjoyed. There are photos to share, impressions to mull over and find the right expressions for, discussions we had about life and marriage, the past and the future, that might bear some (edited) retelling. So I sat myself down at my desk at the upstairs office window, with Rob’s newly planted window boxes bright and cheerful before me in the late afternoon light, and logged on to my mail and the internet, thinking of the hundred things I need to do this week, thinking of a few notes to record for my blog, thinking of Marakele, when my eye caught an email from the SkillzHub, something about a replacement for Mary Metcalfe, the DG for Higher Education and Training.
Last night after Rob and I got home from our relaxed and happy private escape there was an SMS from Mary, thanking those who had worked with her over the past while, and indicating that she would be going on leave as of Monday – today. We would hear in due course, the SMS indicated, who had been appointed to act in her place.
Not a good sign. From the first joint announcement by the Minister and DG, a week ago, that the DG would leave ‘by April,’ to a sudden ‘going on leave’ on Monday, there clearly had been a horrible and rapid deterioration. A senior official told me this morning, in confidence, that one reason for Mary’s departure might have been tensions and a power struggle between her and one of the Minister’s advisers.
And so it was with a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I read the SkillzHub newsflash that it was the same adviser whom the Minister had decided to appoint, with immediate effect, as Acting Director General of the Department.
There is – there has been – no question of Mary’s competence, diligence, application, intelligence, loyalty or commitment. Not a word has been said, or whispered in corridors, that I am aware of, about great matters of policy or differences in strategic approach or indeed in any weighty matter of substance and national concern.
What, then, is the issue? Does this latest announcement tell a tale? If so, it is a sorry tale indeed, and one that should concern all of us who still love this country and believe it has a future.