NEWS

5 Times Lumka Oliphant Made Headlines

Here are five highlights of the career as one of government’s most notorious spokespersons.

06/03/2017 10:42 SAST | Updated 06/03/2017 17:29 SAST

Social development spokesperson Lumka Oliphant is not known for being nice, having had to defend "smallanyana skeletons" ever since crossing over to communications from being a journalist. Here are five highlights of her career as one of government's most notorious spokespersons.

1. English no more

On Monday morning, minutes after doing an interview with the South African Broadcasting Corporation in English, and less than 24 hours after her minister, Bathabile Dlamini, had a press conference that made South Africans go SMH, Lumka Oliphant refused to speak English on 702. "We have been talking about this issue in English, can we please speak in vernacular?" she told presenter Xolani Gwala. He terminated the interview.

2. In the gutter

Oliphant was instantly launched to notoriety in January when she chose to take to Facebook to defend her minister over allegations that she appeared drunk in public. She was forced to apologise after being called to order by the ANC Women's League and others. Some highlights from the post included: "Anyone of you who wish to use this post for your articles‚ go the f*** ahead! Yes‚ the f*** ahead! I have decided to take this alcohol matter to the gutter where you have taken it. It has also become fashionable that when we talk about what we know about any leader who may be unpopular‚ we are accused of dancing for our food. So today‚ allow me to dance for my food. Above all allow me to be vulgar." She also said that people can "say whatever you want to say on [Dlamini's] politics when you do not agree with her"‚ but added‚ "don't talk s*** about her".

3. Protection services

When you are a well-loved government servant, you also need bodyguards. In 2014, Oliphant was in the news as being one of the officials at the department for social development who got bodyguards. The protection for Oliphant and her family alone cost tax payers R1,1 million. The security company got the R10 million job reportedly without it having been put out to tender.

4. Crossing over

The abuser of journalists started her career as a hack at City Press, but crossed over to the other side in 2009 after being unhappy with the editorial policy. She publicly squared off with then-editor Ferial Haffajee*. "It was the only newspaper where we wrote for us and felt proud to be able to bring an African perspective and an understanding of who we are as a people," she told The Media Online about the reasons she left.

5. Under the bus

As spokesperson at SA Road Link she had to defend the controversial company, whose buses were dubbed "coffins on wheels" due to its vehicles being involved in fatal accidents and being taken off the road. "Our brand is not damaged," she told Bizcommunity at the time. "Our passengers are just being fed with incorrect information that is creating uncertainty."

*Ferial Haffajee is the editor-at-large of the Huffington Post South Africa.