Dear Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,

I write to you in my private capacity as a citizen of South Africa, just in case the media read it wrong, again.

I watched your NCCC briefing today. I decided at the outset to give you the respect due to you – as an elder. Without the usual judgement that we’re all prone to, I listened not to get angry or find fault, but with an open mind.

Minister, I see a woman who is directly in the vulnerable age group and who has put herself on the front-line, not someone commanding from a safe distance – most people your age are retired and relaxing at home. I see someone who appears to me to be trying her level best to navigate uncharted territory, just like all of us. You said yourself that government has made mistakes and asked for our patience and support – and that isn’t asking much. I see someone who has overcome a great deal of adversity and male chauvinism, not to mention nastiness from a public who like to cast you as the villain. I feel it is time for us to find ways to be less destructive and more collaborative.

Because we’re all feeling threatened and the future is uncertain, the best and worst in all of us has come to the fore. On social media I see friends turning on each other, people saying unbelievably mean and callous things about those they disagree with, even when they’re disagreeing about minor things. It almost seems like we have forgotten how to be civil to each other. That will undoubtedly make things worse, and nobody wants us to emerge from this crisis morally poorer as well as having lost loved ones and jobs. At least we have a choice about our attitudes.

Now, I shouldn’t have to say this, but if I don’t people will think I’m a traitor to my principles: There are a great many things you and I disagree on – the tobacco ban, the liquor ban, the curfew – in fact, I have been against the lockdown from the start. I think it has done enormous damage to us, and to many other nations. Nobody will find themselves immune from this unprecedented situation, and the costs are mounting. No doubt some will interpret this letter as an about-turn, and just like the group who had a problem with my letter to the president, I don’t care if they don’t like me after this one.

But Minister, who cares if you and I disagree? We will both find ourselves in a very different country after this lockdown and we can either treat each other decently now and at the end, or exhaust ourselves arguing about what might have been done better. The former may result in some positive things, the latter only in bitterness. We should do what sensible, responsible people do – wear masks, wash our hands, avoid putting others in danger – and we should get back to work and save South Africa.

By the way, your song with Max Hurrell is the one thing I loved about lockdown – even though I don’t zol.



Dear Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma…


  • Daniel Nel

    Hey Gareth, I listen to your show nearly everyday and have been doing so from the start… awesome job on CliffCentral! You were and continue to be a pioneer in media and entertainment. Thanks for your contribution to enriching at least my knowledge and life. Cheers!

  • Lenora Pretorius

    I have so much respect for your mindset, the way you approach, and then getting your message through. Thank you for basically be our voice as all we do is curse and rant getting no where. The frustration is real.

  • rudi

    Well said, but i don’t think we realize the full extent of the hardship that’s going to follow.
    Hope we can all move past the bitterness quickly! And start once again all over to try and save this country.

  • RO

    What I find the saddest of all is that NDZ is just the spokesperson for Ace and the rest of the top 6 (my opinion of course) and she will take the fall for their decisions taken during disaster management. I look forward to the day that woman like NDZ will make up their own minds and make their own decisions. She is allowing Ace and friends to use her in this capacity. She will (is) loosing her entire life’s work, her credibility and status as a reasonable person for the benefit of her male colleagues – quite the shame for all woman in leadership!

  • Phillip

    Gareth bud, you are a brave soldier. There are a very few “common sensers” left in the world.

  • koketso

    only if people like you gareth didnt exist in public platforms.i find these amusing that you out of everyone had to write these,anyhow gareth you should start working on yourself especialy the hate speech you just got off lightly from,i know that people like you are the ones that would only agree with you(people whom hate the majority black in these country) we agree with the minister and stop making yourself important because you are not

    • Garren

      Gareth, I respect you as a good guy and one that wants to make a positive contribution to our MZANSI. Your vacillating between your/my extremes worries me. Robust discourse is important, but so is understanding/empathy/sympathy/consideration. I hope we can all find the balance. (Minneapolis should be a warning)!

  • Adrian

    Mr Cliff, well articulated and said. Would be interested to hear some response from NDZ in any form.
    As you’ve said, lets all do what is expected of us….nothing more , nothing less. The nett result will HAVE to be a slightly better version of ourselves than before the lockdown???

  • Jean

    Gareth, I get that she has earned respect through her years as an ANC stalwart, but dude, really?
    She has taken away something that has become a coping mechanism for so many of us. My nicotine fix, coupled with my smoke break, keeps me sane.
    I will gladly show any elder the respect they deserve, however this particular elder took something away from me that I did not want taken away. And her reasoning is utterly devoid of rational thought.

    I know cigarettes are bad for me, but so is sugar, and fat, starch, alcohol, porn, and everything other thing in life that is taken in excess. I’m an adult, and I have gotten myself this far in life without any assistance from her.
    I would prefer if she would let me decide what I can put in my body, it’s got nothing to do with someone who thinks that she needs to be an overbearing, overparenting matriarchal figure to make sure I live the way she deems fitting.
    I will give her respect, if she gives some to me.

    F#$k , I need a cigarette…

  • M Hill

    Good one Gareth but you did you did not say what 99% of South Africans would have said and yes as cabinet are all over the age of 60 and they keep preaching that over 60s must stay home it means they must all STAY AT HOME!!!

  • James Watadza

    What was the point of this letter? This would be like me writting a letter to you in which I say “i agree and disagree with you, ok, bye”…

  • Ian Perry

    Is it only me, because if there is a subtext to this letter then I’m completely missing it, so please could you summarise exactly what you are trying to say? I was expecting one of your usual and incisive epiphanies but feel that I’ve robbed and left hanging with “big hugs for NDZ” (obviously only when she informs us that social distancing has been lifted). Yes being civil to each other is a noble aim and short on currency but the unquestioning dance to the pied pipers tune also being suggested here troubles me somewhat. So maybe it’s me but this letter just doesn’t seem to have a beginning, a middle and an end… just a middle.

  • Fern Bonny

    Hi Gareth
    As Jamie Oliver would say, you’re pukkah! I may not always agree with you but I’m appreciative of your honesty. Thanks for doing you and keeping it real.

  • Ronél Briers

    Welldone Gareth for being the bigger person and show respect to an elder. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a fan and am extremely upset about the lockdown and the consequences to our country and our people and our economy. But I HAVE to salute you, you are spot on!! Brothers are turning against brothers and we will accomplish absolutely nothing by turning on each other. Now more than ever we should peace and harmony be our main focus. United we stand

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