The media's misreporting of the ANC policy conference - Nzimande
- NEC member says the coverage by the Sunday papers was appalling
- SHODDY JOURNALISM - A MOUTHPIECE OF FACTIONALISTS IN OUR MOVEMENT
By Blade Nzimande
A journalist at the ANC National Policy Conference approached me last week asking why the SACP seemed reluctant to have an interview with him and his newspaper.
I responded, tongue in cheek and
said it may be because some of
them have stopped being journalists;
they have effectively become
the mouthpiece of factionalists in
He retorted and said, "Some of
you guys in the NEC leak information
to us". I responded by pointing
out that I sometimes wondered
if there isn't a two-way relationship
that maybe some of them get paid
by their NEC sources? A suspicion
that's it without any evidence so
far! The conversation ended rather
abruptly after that. Alas! When I
read the Sunday Papers after the
policy conference the same journalist
is one of those who wrote an
article that portrays a conference
that never happened.
If anyone needs any example to
confirm that South African media
has, at worst, become an organised
opposition voice to the ANC and
government, and at best, a factionalist
player in the politics of our
movement, must look no further
than the headlines of the Sunday
papers this past weekend.
The Sunday times read: "Chaos
at the ANC conference". This paper
should be ashamed of itself. To
run such a headline after a conference
whose opening and closing
sessions were broadcast openly to
both free to air and pay television
as well as radio channels - including
daily briefings on the outcomes
of commissions - is not only shocking
but is taking South Africans for
Anyone who participated in the
proceedings must ask as to which
conference the Sunday Times is
writing about. High levels of debate
characterized the policy conference,
and the delegates displayed
intellectual depth and
rigour. One can only wonder where
exactly the so-called chaos took
place, unless the Sunday Times is
deliberately seeking to mislead and
misinform the public, in a manner
that is in fact tantamount to a lie!
As for the City Press', "Tide turn
on Zuma", the Editor should
equally be ashamed of herself for
this shoddy journalism. The quality
of debates yielded clear resolutions
whose aim had absolutely
nothing to do with the President.
These form the basis of which the
ANC policy directives will be debated
and finalized in Mangaung.
This seems like a self-fulfilling
prophecy as the City Press were
predicting that the ANC National
Policy Conference will be used by
delegates to turn against the President.
Ferial, this is a shameful
manufacture of headlines and stories
that have no basis whatsoever.
One hopes the editor is not blinded
by her grief emanating from the
mass action against the City Press
on the Spear issue. If that were the
case, she would be allowing her
anger to blind her editorial decisions.
The most bizarre efforts to misinform
the public were by the Independent
stable reporting that the
President of the ANC had to be
whisked away from the podium at
one point. Really? Here is what
happened. A delegate from North
West Province grabbed the microphone
and pushed away another
delegate whilst speaking. The
Chairperson of the session Comrade
Jeff Radebe requested the
ANC officials who form the steering
committee to go out and deliberate
on the issue and deal with it.
The President left at that time with
nothing resembling any 'whisking
This matter was dealt with by
the Steering Committee, which
swiftly ordered the delegate to
leave the conference hall and the
conference continued smoothly. It
is a blatant lie that the President
was whisked away. It is equally
untrue to report that this incident
represented chaos of the conference.
In fact it is tantamount to disrespect
to more than the 3000 delegates
of the ANC who were disciplined
and took their
organisational responsibility seriously.
Let alone the many readers
of these papers who at the very least
expect to be informed truthfully
When we engage with these issues
some in the media interpret
this to mean we are against the
media. This is far from the truth.
What we are challenging is intellectual
shallowness and charlatanry
and the abuse of media freedom
to pursue what we see as factionalism
inside our organisations.
Let us restate the obvious:
This was the most successful
policy conference ever.
The process in the lead up to the
conference, the deliberations during
conference and its outcomes
demonstrated the extent to which
the ANC and its Alliance partners
are the only formations committed
to open and transparent democratic
debates about policy.
These policies have been
thrown wide open for public debate
for society as a whole to contribute.
Sadly many media houses
chose to play an intellectual gatekeeping
role by narrowing eleven
policy discussion papers to one
concept of 'a second transition'.
After the conference they are playing
the same role of misinformation
based on dubious sources that
exaggerate a few instances of ill
discipline. For God's sake criticize
the ANC, disagree but do so
based on facts and informed analysis.
Another pathetic approach to
covering the ANC and government
by media now is that of seeking to
reduce everything to Mangaung.
It is as if editors and commentators
have stopped thinking, or even
doing any kind of research, analysis
or investigative journalism that
is required to understand ANC processes
and procedures. This is really
sad. A simple practice like
singing about ANC leaders is reduced
The fact is ANC sings are about
its leaders all the time. This is no
brainer. As to why singing about
President Zuma, as a serving president
of the ANC should be a
Mangaung ploy baffles one's mind.
It is even worse when the majority
of journalists and editors understand
the historic and cultural nuances
of these songs. Please inform
the public about this rich culture
and save us the opportunistic charlatanry.
An interesting development that
many media houses have developed
is what one would call a 'PR'
stance of using internal OMBUDS.
These Ombuds appear to accept
many of the challenges we are raising.
However this seems to be selfserving
rather than genuine. If it
were genuine we would be seeing
different media products with better
quality of analysis.
For example there seems to be
no effort to enforce a balance between
factual reporting, opinion
and analyses. The good old journalistic
principle of seeking to tell
a story factually seems to have
gone out of the window. It has been
replaced by innuendos and dubious
anonymous sources. While
there may be genuine reasons for
anonymous sources from time to
time, there cannot be total dependence
on these as is the case these
days. Where are the internal Ombudsmen
when this kind of journalism
becomes the norm?
The delegates who attended
conference through the structures
of the ANC must report back to
the membership the resolutions of
this successful conference. Otherwise
we risk our successes being
distorted by this level of
disinformation we are seeing in the
That we cannot allow. It seems
as if both the sources and 'their'
journalists had told themselves that
the Policy Conference would be a
showdown against President
Therefore the story must be told
either as such or otherwise projects
the conference as having been chaotic.
This kind of reporting will
sooner or later lead to the complete
destruction of any trust between
our movement and the media. This
is truly shameful reporting. Let the
real and principled editors and journalists
stand up against this, for the
sake of media and society and their
Blade Nzimande is an ANC
NEC member and Minister of
Higher Education and Training.
This article first appeared in ANC
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