Cape cabinet rolls up its sleeves for 67 minutes

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille and her cabinet members donned overalls as they spent 67 minutes cleaning windows, floors and cots at the city's Red Cross Children's Hospital in celebration of Nelson Mandela's 93rd birthday.

While Zille, decked out in white overalls, green work pants and a green hair net, cleaned windows with some of her colleagues in the trauma ward, her other cabinet members tackled floors and beds in a ward upstairs.

The premier and her cabinet members started their 67 minutes shortly before 11am.

Zille said the idea had been to work as a team: "We felt that if we all work together, we could achieve more than just working individually on projects.

"I'm so glad that we decided to do a cleaning job because after we finished cleaning the windows, I could see it that it made a difference to the children in that ward. The sun was streaming into the ward on the beautiful day, the dirt was off the windows and it made a difference.

"I would like a South African way of life to be that every night when you go to bed, you say: 'did I leave the world a slightly better place than today?"

MEC of Health, Theuns Botha, who cleaned ward floors and beds, said it was a special experience as he and cabinet colleagues worked with other staff.

"I just realised again that every task and position is important to make this institution a success," he said.

Botha also pointed out certain problems in the hospital to Red Cross Hospital chief executive Dr Lungelwa Lunga and her colleagues - including an ordered trolley system for medicines, cleaning materials and the like, and dirty baby cots.

Hospital staff told Zille and her cabinet that new R1-million trolleys with a colour-coding system for different uses, would be implemented, while a new cleaning system would soon be used for baby cots.

The hospital was also busy finalising a contract to clean the windows, but because of safety problems in the building, this had not yet been put in place.

At one time, Zille showed her attention to detail when she chastised a colleague for not cleaning her window properly, while joking with a hospital staff member about the number of cloths she and a colleague were going through to clean the ward's windows.

Later Zille, who sang while working with colleagues, quipped to staff at the hospital: "I've taken 67 minutes to clean one window, you'll never employ me here."

Lunga said the visit by the cabinet was "very overwhelming."

"We feel we are very privileged to have such high calibre people to come and be the general workers in our institution," she said.

Education MEC Donald Grant said: "I think there's a difference between having a (spirit of) ubuntu on the wall and in your heart and living and working it every day," said Grant, who encouraged South Africans to live a life in service of their fellow man.