Minister struggling with spokesperson's death

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is struggling to come to terms with the death of his spokesperson Joe Maila.

Speaking during Maila’s memorial service in Pretoria on Thursday, Minister Motsoaledi said he has a problem speaking about Maila in the past tense because somehow in his subconscious he is not gone.

“I am not able to accept that. I have tried. I know it’s irrational. I caught myself this week at least twice when I was listening to the radio or watching television and when something is said about the department that needs to be corrected; I caught myself dialling Joe’s number, breaking down thereafter when I realise it is not going to be answered for Joe is no more,” Minister Motsoaledi said.

Maila who is survived by his wife and two children, passed away last Thursday evening.

“I hope maybe after attending the funeral on Saturday, perhaps my subconscious mind will start accepting and I will stop referring journalists to him and I will stop dialling his number,” he said.

Minister Motsoaledi who described Maila as his confidante, said the two had worked together since 2012.

“At times I forgot that he was my spokesperson. He became a colleague like me on an equal footing. I also felt like Joe was like a younger brother to me. He was never scared to confront me if he felt I was being irrational when responding to issues.

“He was never scared of challenging my views and present me with a perspective to understand how the media works and how to approach them,” Minister Motsoaledi said.

South African National Editors' Forum (Sanef) representative Thabile Mbhele said it was hard to believe that she would not hear Maila’s jolly voice on the phone line.

“We are devastated, shocked and in disbelief that we will never see him again,” Mbhele said.

She has described Maila as kind and forth coming with information.

“Joe never made me feel like I was waiting in a long queue for a comment from the Minister, yet there were so many of us who wanted to comment on this and that.

“He made his job seem so much easier. He would get the Minister out of meetings just to do a short sound bite,” Mbhele said

Head of Communication for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga, said Maila was one of the best communicators in government.

“He was a consummate professional. He was a supportive colleague. I was chairperson in the social cluster platform for communicators. He always made sure that we had content from the Department of Health.

“He was afraid of the spotlight but he didn’t create it either. Joe will be sorely missed,” Mhlanga said

He said Maila also cared deeply about health, particularly of young people and the well-being of the vulnerable.

“He saw the impact that not having a decent pair of shoes had on a child. In many instances, children would rather not go to school than to go to school without shoes and face humiliation at the hands of their peers.

“Joe, together with his colleagues, put together 1Million School Shoes Campaign. In so doing, he managed to restore the dignity of so many children and gave them a sense of pride to walk through the school gates eager to learn while holding their heads high,” Mhlanga said.

He said helping others gave Maila a sense of joy.

Maila’s funeral will be held on Saturday in Limpopo. –

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