South Africa: 'Politics Is Inevitably Messy,' Says Outgoing DA 'Chief Toilet Cleaner' James Selfe


As the DA heads into a big race this weekend to replace James Selfe as chairperson of the federal council executive, he explains why the role is that of a 'chief toilet cleaner'.

Question: I've heard you describe the role of the chairperson of the federal executive as a "toilet cleaner". It's a metaphor, of course, but could you explain it?

Answer: It is true that I have sometimes described my role as the chief toilet cleaner. That is because politics and political management are invariably messy. There are seldom right or wrong answers. Frequently one chooses between bad and less bad alternatives. I have seen my role as dealing with the messiness, so as to allow the political leadership of the Party to articulate a clear and inspirational message, and not to be bogged (literally) down with the political minutiae of the management of our Party.

Q. Is the role of chairperson of the federal council executive chairperson one of political leadership or technocratic leadership?

It depends. Most of it is technocratic. The DA has a number of systems and policies and regulations and it is a question of applying these to a set of circumstances. But equally frequently...

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