Reporters have asked for my comments on the Simona Broomes saga, but up till now I remained quiet on it largely because I did not want to become part of the personal attacks on the minister. Too often, these matters descend into personal attacks by detractors or uncritical defence by supporters. In the process, the real seriousness of the matter gets lost and the political culture remains intact. I think that is the case here. I am also mindful of the fact that the minister is human and is entitled to make errors of judgement. This may well have been the case here. But at the end of the day she is a minister in high office and ought to be very careful in the exercise of power.
The minister’s behaviour to my mind is part of our larger elite political culture whereby those entrusted with governmental power treat it as their personal property rather than as a responsibility to be carefully executed. Minister Broomes, like so many political leaders on both sides of the political divide, seems to have allowed the power of her office to impair her judgement. I am very certain that had she been a private citizen, she would have handled that matter differently. Clearly, her attitude on that night betrayed a sense of personal superiority and inherent entitlement to privilege. That she could throw her official weight around, as the video revealed, and then relate a narrative that appears to be contrary to what occurred betrays a sense of her sense of invincibility. Twist it and turn it, at the end of the day this is a clear case of official bullying of powerless citizens.
It is one of the worrying characteristics of the top echelon of this government and previous ones—they seem intoxicated by the power they have and use it simply because they have it and could use it. Part of it I think has to do with their unfamiliarity with political power that is born of a lack of proper preparation for high office. Minister Broomes, for example, is part of a group of ministers who were never serious political activists; they did not come through the ranks of parties and movements. They were parachuted into high office when the coalition won in 2015. They did not personally struggle and sacrifice politically for the power they now have access to. Hence, they are not as careful with it as they ought to be. Minister Broomes got caught, but I am sure there are others who behave in a similar manner.
It is quite disappointing that apart from Minister Volda Lawrence, not one other official has had the courage to condemn what is clearly official bullying on the part of the minister. I have read where some defenders cite the minister’s hard work and forthrightness as her assets. But effectiveness as a minister is not licence for bullyism. At the very least the government, the president and the party to which the minister is affiliated should publicly disassociate themselves from such behaviour.
In the final analysis, this episode reinforces the need for a serious Code of Conduct for Ministers. It also signals that those entrusted with public power must manage it better. Our country is mired in lawlessness and uncivility at all levels and if we are to pull ourselves out of it, those who are in leadership positions must lead by example.