Objective reporting or smear campaign?
By Udo Froese
As a concerned citizen of South Africa I noted your frontpage article by a certain Lyse Comins on June 16, 2012, under the title "BOB'S PAD BARRED" with an even more insulting sub-headline "Work stopped on Mugabe crony's R200m Ballito 'bolthole'"
not go unnoticed.
First, your reporter's use of
slogans and unfounded clichés
without much effort to deliver
facts discredited not only your
newspaper and the standards,
you claim to hold, it further undermined
the media's and more
particularly the foreign owned
publishing house, Independent
Newspapers Limited credibility.
Those continuous efforts of an
intensified media spin
marginalise the media.
Following are the examples,
how the SATURDAY STAR
its own reputation.
The headline disrespectfully
refers to an elder African statesman,
a head of state and commander
in chief of the armed
forces of a sovereign neighbour
How would you, Messrs.
Crowley and Howard, respond,
if your newspapers would refer
on your front pages to the
United Kingdom's Queen
Elizabeth II as just Liz, or
Germany's head of state as just
Angie-Baby, or the US president
as simply that Bar-wecan?
Is it simply because the media
is just dealing with an African
president that foreign
owned publishing companies
can willy-nilly dismiss them as
leaders of backyard, squatter
Your newspapers' approach
towards senior African leadership
seems to have its own history.
It would explain, why the
media has never reported on the
blatant breach of the 'Lancaster
House Agreement of 1979',
which forms the cornerstone of
Zimbabwe's sovereign independence.
Or is it that international
agreements with Third World
and African countries need not
to be as respected as with the
US, Israel, UK, Canada, the
EU, Australia and New
The sub-headline with the
chosen propaganda wording of
"crony", adding another word
for some residence in Ballito
Bay outside Durban, and describing
it as a "bolthole", is
another case in point.
The writer picks up in the
following article, again referring
to "A 'crony' of Zimbabwean
Mugabe, building a luxury
mansion with an underground
bunker in Ballito, KZN, has
been ordered to stop work on
the R200million property."
Your writer then goes on to
report, "It is rumoured to be a
bolthole for Mugabe,..."
And, more such reporting by
the SATURDAY STAR, "...
indentified in some reports as
the leader's former pilot..."
"He (that is dr. Robert
Mhlanga) is reported to ..."
The writer then goes on to
refer to a "potential impact on
neighbouring properties and the
Then this: "The SATURDAY
STAR this week established that
Mhlanga, via his company Formate
(Pty.) Ltd is the mystery
man behind the development."
There are referrals to "bullet
proof windows and an underground
bunker" and "some
internet reports" when "reporting"
on dr. Robert Mhlanga.
Your writer then refers to
"two Global Witness 2010 and
2012 reports on blood diamonds in Zimbabwe."
But, your writer has made no
effort at all to proof the credibility
of that "Global Witness"
and their reports. The reporter
did not research the trail of the
money of funding of such foreign
NGOs, such as the "Global
Witness". Who pays those
NGOs? Why do the media
refuse point blank to investigate
the funding and the funders of
such civil society? Why do the
media take their defence of such
civil society even further, by
declaring efforts to research the
funders, the funding and therefore
the owners of that civil society
to be "conspiratorial theories"?
More such unproven and
unsubstantiated allegations, further
discredited by terms such
as "questionable circumstances
to opaque companies at
Marange" litter that front page
article of the SATURDAY STAR
of June 16, 2012.
The rest of that article fails to
proof beyond doubt that any of
the listed allegations have substantial
facts. Most of those
people named, were simply not
available, or had nothing to contribute.
The entire article seems to be
a media spin only. It does not
allow facts and substance to get
in its way. It seems to focus on
one direction only. That is, to
intensify the media spin against
Therefore, the writer created
the perception that the frontpage
allegations against an African
head of state, more particularly
the elder Zimbabwean
president, are nothing more
than a form of character assassination
in order to mislead the
public. Such is vulgar political
A so-called "crony", one of
the indigenous African-Zimbabwean
businessmen and mine
co-owners, is merely used to
get to President Robert
It would be responsible if
such reporting would be
brought to the attention of the
media ombudsman. It would be
important that slander and libellous
media reports would be
dealt with in the same way as
all other slander and libellous
campaigns - taking it to the
courts and let the law take its
The onus is on (a) the publishing
house to apologise unconditionally
with the same prominence it
gave its article on the front page
of its publication and (b) on the
media ombudsman to take the
necessary action to rectify such
reporting and finally (c) for
those victims of such reporting
to take action against such publishing
It is further important to establish,
what exactly the role of
the media is in South and southern
Africa and why it remains
foreign, majority owned, as it
not only stifles the national debate,
but disrespects African
thinking, history, culture and
daily expectations, dressing
Eurocentric Afro pessimism up
The aforementioned would
be the honourable route to follow,
if the owners of the media
are sincerely committed to become
part of improving life for
all living on the African continent.
The media should not be tendentiously
market through power peddling
and malicious rumour mongering.
No amount of ingenuous chicanery
can obscure the simple
basic facts about the media's
hidden agendas. Therefore, the
owners and their senior management
of the media would
have to be held responsible for
It is important that governments,
the owners of the
economy and civil society as
well as of the media take note
that any form of blurring the
lines between democracy and
High Treason is unlawful in
South Africa. There is a law
against it. This also means that
any attempts at what certain
opportunistic politicians and
mischievous armchair academic
analysts describe as
"North African-style Arab
Spring" with the subsequent
result of a "regime change" are
punishable by law. The media
is their platform.