Never one to back down from a challenge, Helen Zille applies her journalistic and political skills to crush a setback against an equally skilled literary warrior, Stephen Grootes. Anyone following either protagonist will enjoy what promises to be an instructive rally. While journalists are supposed to show no fear or favor, Zille, unlike many other politicians, plays them at their own game, serves and steals, interrogating, countering and providing evidence for his every argument. I can’t help but admire him using his former stellar membership in the Fourth Estate to vent the issues vigorously. Readers can form their own opinion and, on election day, express it at the polls. Here’s how to do it: Don’t entrust intelligence to selected media pawns to curry favor and win propaganda wars. If, like me, you respect the two protagonists, expect more exchanges at Wimbledon. Let the best competitors fight – without victimizing individuals to look awake. –Chris Bateman
By Hélène Zille
Looking back on my 25 years in politics and remembering the sustained media attacks on the DA, I struggle to identify a single issue where the commentator hunt was right and the DA was proven wrong.
Indeed, our biggest errors in judgment occurred when we followed the media wake – as we did during the Schweizer Reneke debacle in the fall of 2019.
But overall, history has proven our foresight correct on nearly every issue I can think of, from legalized BBBEE corruption to state capture, dangerous Wokeness ideology and much more .
We flagged all these errors in real time, long before they became “obvious” – and were lambasted as racist (or worse) for it.
But the prosecutor’s prescience is rarely, if ever, recognized. When most media commentators finally get it, years later, they usually trumpet it as a new idea. But it’s rear-view mirror analysis, as they continue to head blindly into the foggy future.
If they manage to spot an intersection in the road ahead of them, they almost inevitably take the wrong turn.
Their double standards are also legendary. The DA is judged by a totally different standard than any other party. For example, other parties regularly fire and replace public officials and staff, without having to endure adverse media commentary. But if someone leaves the DA, even for the most innocuous reason, it is presented as a “purge” or an “exodus”.
Another favorite trick is “false equivalence”. Whenever the ANC is embroiled in a scandal, commentators will look for an issue (no matter how small) to issue equal criticism against the DA.
I see these things all the time. Most of the time I shrug my shoulders. But sometimes I spot an example so blatant that even I am surprised.
Take a recent column by Stephen Grootes, dated June 12, titled: The national failure of South African democracy.
In his column, Grootes briefly discusses the revelations that Cyril Ramaphosa hid a huge hoard of dollars (between $4 and $8 million), inside furniture on his farmhouse. The money was stolen, allegedly by a gang collaborating with a domestic worker. The suspects were later tracked down, reportedly kidnapped and bribed to keep the incident a secret.
This is how Grootes treats it: “While the discovery that Ramaphosa was keeping US dollars in cash on his farm, possibly illegally, is not in itself a massive event, it is often small incidents like this- which precipitate a major political crisis. crisis.”
I did a double take. The mere fact that the president kept a huge amount of dollars in his farm IS a massive event, even without the supposed incredible criminal sequel. As most knowledgeable people know, keeping foreign currency above the modest legal limit is itself a criminal offence.
Just ask a man named Faisal Abid, who was found in possession of over $500,000 on his way to Dubai. The entire lot was confiscated due to its violation of exchange control regulations. And his court attempt to recover his money failed.
Then there is the obvious void in Ramaphosa’s explanation that the money was the proceeds of the sale of cattle and game. This explanation is equally flat because foreign currency is not legal tender in South Africa. And game auctions usually involve payment by electronic funds transfer, not cash.
Ramaphosa’s cover-up is so egregious that this entire episode from start to finish IS A MASSIVE EVENT no matter how you look at it.
Later in the article comes the inevitable “false equivalence” with the DA. Grootes finds it in a recent Twitter exchange between Johannesburg DA Mayor Mpho Phalatse and former DA chief Tony Leon. Although the exchange caused irritation on both sides, it was such a non-event that it would not have attracted any attention – if the DA had not been involved. .
But Grootes devotes more space to this non-event than to the alleged criminality of Cyril Ramaphosa. He describes a totally innocuous Tweet about a DA caucus workshop as “relatively” innocent, before detailing the exchange between the mayor and Leon, and concluding that this “small incident” is another sign of the divisions within AD with important consequences for democracy.
It is not such a thing.
The exchange between Tony and Mpho is a small setback between two individuals. It tells you absolutely nothing about the current resilient and robust state of AD. But Grootes needed the false equivalence between the “relatively innocent” Tweet to offset his reference to the “not in itself a massive event” involving the president.
Why does Grootes do this? He does this to prove that there is a “national failure of democracy” in South Africa. Indeed, this very sentence is the title of his article. This means that he must describe the ANC and the DA as equivalent failures.
The truth, of course, is quite different. Where the DA rules with an absolute majority in 15 municipalities across four provinces and in the Western Cape, life is gradually improving for all residents. Where the DA governs, there is no “failure of democracy”. In fact, we emphasize that the success of our democratic project depends on the choice of voters.
We are also part of 11 majority coalitions and 12 minority coalitions, much more difficult to govern, but where (in some cases) we are starting to see green shoots. The multiplicity of “pop-up” parties that emerge before each election translates into complex and unstable coalitions, which multiply the risks of governance failures.
This will only become too obvious in the years to come, which Grootes will also be forced to acknowledge through the rearview mirror. For now, though, he’s doing the trendy thing of throwing those parties in a subtle but obvious way.
I just have one question, Stephen: why is it so terribly difficult to recognize that where the DA governs, there is no democratic failure? And why is it so impossible to see that the more we earn, the better the prospects for South African democracy? And the better the chances of ensuring sustained economic growth and reducing poverty, which is our overarching goal.
The DA attracts criticism, in part because we seek out the truth and tell it, however unpleasant it may be. We believe this is essential for the future of South Africa.
Isn’t it time for media commentators to try to do the same?
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