by BO staff writer
date: 15 April 2016
The South African media has taken sides in the Gupta versus white capital battle for the control of the economy. There are notable exceptions but our media in general has chosen the side of white capital. Whilst this is not surprising it’s effects after the campaign is done, irrespective of which faction in the battle wins, shall be that we will be left with not just a captured state but a properly captured media too. This is a terrible turn in media practice in our country. For too long the veneer of objectivity has given the impression of a media that is struggling to be neutral. But the Gupta saga has torn asunder the pretence of neutrality and fairness. The media has become the lobby group for white capital in its bitter battle to muscle the Guptas out of the South African economy, especially the mining sector which they are beginning to aggressively encroach upon.
It must be remembered that mining is the preserve of white capital. It’s the family jewel and foundation of South African capital. We would do well to remember that the narrative that reduces South Africa’s political and economic woes to the Guptas and President Zuma was hatched and promoted by the London based controllers of the South African economy. Publications linked to the City of London were amongst the first to pick up the narrative after it was introduced by the leaders of the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), after their London trip where they met the owners of our economy.
It was therefore not surprising that it was the London based Financial Times which first opened the flood gates of confessions of senior ANC members about ministerial position offers made by the Gupta family. London knew first that the Deputy Minister Mcebisi Jonas had a big fat secret to tell. The speed and tenacity with which our media repeated the Financial Mail report, which relied entirely on unnamed sources was a marvel to watch. The Daily Maverick went as far as saying it didn’t doubt the veracity of the claims by the Financial Mail because of its reputation. No more need for fact checking. It is true because the Financial Mail says so.
Other sections of the media lost their patience. They dropped the mask of objectivity and went for the jugular. The Financial Mail called for what amounted to a coup. They said President Zuma must not be allowed to finish his term, and that a deal must be found to make him leave the Union Buildings. The tried and tested democratic process of elections is apparently no longer sufficient. Other unconventional methods must be employed. This impatience must be understood as part of the underlying understanding that the Guptas are given access to the economy through their privileged access to the President. So if Zuma goes the taps automatically close on the Guptas and the white status quo is preserved. So the animus against the guy from Nkandla is not entirely driven by concerns of good governance. Economic domination is the primary consideration.
The Guptas tried a fight back by threatening legal action against one of the more active lobbyists for economic status, the popular zine ran by Alec Hogg named Biznews. It was Peter Bruce who inadvertently exposed how the media is synonymous with white capital by writing that Hogg should sleep peacefully because white business would come to his defence and pick up the legal bill for him. I asked Bruce why he thought white business would fund the legal battles of a Biznews editor and if such would be legal. He beat a retreat and said he was on vacation – but the cat was already out of the sack.
As it is said, the first casualty of war is the truth. As a result of this war over the economy of South Africa and the reality of sides chosen, the nation was robbed of the really big story. It didn’t feature at all. The story which every significant editor knows about but had no appetite to pick up was the abrupt resignation of senior Sunday Times journalist Piet Rampedi. I sent inquiries to a few editors, but none came back with a response. It was left to a junior journalist to advise me that there is an unwritten rule that the media doesn’t write stories about each other. So it would seem a large part of the blackout on the story is the mafia like oath of secrecy and mutual protection. If this is true even as a practice, then the argument for an independent media tribunal has been made.
The Rampedi story is important because he was one of the main journalists who investigated the veracity of the existence of the SARS “rogue unit” which was established under the tenure of current Minister of Finance Pravin Gordhan as SARS commissioner. Those ousted as members of the “rogue unit” which was found to be illegal by the Sikhakhane Commission had complained to the press ombudsman who ruled in their favour. Sunday Times then responded by standing with the story and took the matter on appeal. This was good until an alleged delegation of people working for Gordhan or on their own made presentations to the managers of Sunday Times, which then apparently informed the ombudsman to shelve the appeal and thereby threw the journalist who worked on the story under the bus.
There was another significant development at Sunday Times which explains the malleability of the new leaders of the paper to the pressures to subvert media independence. The editor under whose guard the SARS story was initially run had left the publication. I asked the new editor if the allegations were true but he didn’t find the time to respond for well over a week. But it is alleged that the resignation letter of Rampedi is an explosive indictment on the Sunday Times and exposes how media freedom has been trampled upon.
Why would the media go to such lengths to sweep the truth under the carpet? The real reason is that our media has taken sides in the economic wars over the wealth of the nation. Pravin has to be protected because he is seen as a man betting on the side of the markets, that is to say, white capital. The position taken by a section of the media is that the “rogue unit” saga must disappear by any means necessary. This explains why Senior Advocate Muzi Sikhakhane who headed the commission of inquiry which discovered the rogue unit has been put under so much pressure – his integrity has been questioned, his findings have been belittled. Sikhakhane’s life has also been threatened. Stories of retired judges trying to bully him to recant are also canned by the media. It’s the wild west out there!
The findings of Sikhakhane are corroborated by two other investigations, significantly by the KPMG report which is the subject of the ombudsman appeal. The bone of contention was that Sunday Times relied on a draft report, the ombudsman accepted this argument. Truth is even the final report which is now available confirms the Rampedi report on the rogue unit. This already gives us a good indication of how the appeal is likely to be decided.
The real troubling development is that it’s not just the Sunday Times which has entered the proxy wars over our economy but a long list of mainly white journalists and opinions makers, some of whom have been ousted for having dealings or unethical relationships with members of the rogue unit.
John Robbie of 702, one of the greatest defenders of Gordhan against the Hawks, confessed to having been a tax emissary for the businessman Dave King. To this end John Robbie’s intervention assisted King to get rid of his R2 billion or so tax headache. He was assisted in this task by people identified as members of the rogue unit. Robbie is not alone, most journalists who have been rubbishing investigations and commission reports on the SARS rogue unit are alleged to be associated with the rogue unit members. Some have received tax payers’ information from the rogue unit in contravention of the law and protocols of SARS. These allegations are confirmed by the three investigations (Sikhakhane, Kroon and KPMG).
The Hawks’ questions to Gordhan have been received with hostility by the media and pro-white capital opinion makers. In one instance, journalists mockingly answered the questions to try and cast them as invalid and childish. It turns out that one of the journalists involved had undisclosed dealings with the rogue unit.
In the quest to squash the rogue unit exposé, the media has gone rogue. In the quest to defend Gordhan the media has crossed the line of reporting to inciting. In the quest to eliminate the Guptas as factors in the South African economy, the media has been fanning the fires of anti-Indian xenophobia. We are quickly descending to fascism, driven by those who project themselves as flag bearers of good governance and economic freedom.
So determined is the media to carry out the London campaign that it has lowered all its standards. When the former member of parliament Vytjie Mentor went on to Facebook and “spilled the beans”, no questions begging to be answered were asked. Why five years later? Why to a DA member? Has she reported the matter to her own Party? If Zuma was in the next room when the offer was made, as she says, did he know that the offer was made? Who invited her to the Gupta family home? Why did she go?
Similarly, when Jonas waxes lyrical about values and traditions of good governance, how does this square with the litany of corruption claims against him? How come he is projected as a clean man? The media’s pursuit of a smoking gun to bring down the Guptas in furtherance of the agenda of white capital has compromised the integrity of our journalism even further. When the fourth estate stops informing and engages in mass misinformation campaigns we must be ready for the coming whirl wind. Then it will be too late to cry media freedom.