- In the end we must ask what threat does the Weekly Xposé pose, and for what reasons?
I read a crossbreed of news sources on a weekly basis from which I choose to engage such as I deem it my right. I equally have a blog, www.ramalainetalkpoliticalanalysis.com, that is legally registered with http://www.wordpress.com. It contains over 200 opinion pieces I have penned over the last 4/5 years. I therefore write, on a weekly basis, opinion pieces as a hobby on our political and religious context and its experiential realities because SA is a very rich tapestry of information and a hive of political activity affording anyone to choose what to engage with and analyse virtually on a daily basis.
I must equally upfront state that I hold no brief for Kenny Kunene whom I have never met, neither dare I pretend to speak on behalf of Weekly Xposé. Mine is and remains an attempt at analyzing amaBhungane as it shares its mind.
You perhaps wonder why I start in this fashion. I do so because amaBhungane on February 2, 2017, carried a story with the heading “Another Front in the perception war exposed: Kenny Kunene, founder of Weekly Xposé”.
AmaBhungane makes a number of claims as it attempts to question and simultaneously label Weekly Xposé in a drape of illegitimacy. AmaBhungane, in attempt of questioning the credibility of Weekly Xposé takes carte blanche to lump some in a group in defence of what it defines as Gupta-family interests. It appears the sins of commission, on the part of those amaBhungane identify as Gupta-family interest defenders, are informed by them proving vocal in sharing distinct different opinions to what we are forced-fed daily as it relates to a scripted discourse on the one-sided role of capital in the political life of South Africa.
The preamble of the amaBhungane centre for Investigative Journalism asserts it “a non-profit company founded to develop investigative journalism in the public interest.” It then makes its case for models of funding in stating the following ” Non-profit, donor funded models represent an alternative gaining ground worldwide. Adequate funding without a profit motive helps to ensure that the public interest in the exposure of wrongdoing is served.”
What is important to remember in South Africa is that civil society formations defined in non-profit organisations have over time distinguished themselves in defence of a constitutional democracy. Therefore, they often claim a natural custodianship in upkeep and respect of the constitution, which is for some forever under threat. Yet that is the more acceptable face of civil society formations when we also in South Africa know, and have seen dimensions of a clear bias, one-sided and less balanced civil society formations that have taken a position less in critical analysis, hardly questioning the prevailing narrative as communicated by the majority of South African media platforms.
It is in that context that the work of amaBhungane, as extrapolated from its mandate and founding principles, warrants remaining crucial and defined in objectivity; it cannot afford to be seen as questionable in its praxis when it lacks the capacity and heartbeat of equal zest to question all media equally, particularly those who ply their trade in investigative journalism.
The amaBhungane article chose to use the phenomenon of what is colloquially termed ‘fake news’, a recent international politics construct often used by the 45th President of the US Donald Trump, to conscientise its readers as to the questionability of the domain of a Weekly Xposé. Yet it almost begrudgingly is forced to acknowledge that Weekly Xposé is legitimate, as can be seen from its claim of ‘”Legitimate veneer and publishes regular wire articles”. This constitutes clearly a conflicting statement, since AmaBhungane lumps Weekly Xposé into a category of fake news whilst it extends an acknowledgment of legitimacy. The subject of fake news is often never engaged honestly for it appears whoever determines news fake, holds the custodian right to determine what is real and what is fake news. What then makes amaBhungane the referee on the status of a Weekly Xposé as an entity?
The open line of the article starts in reference to Kenny Kunene as it categorically asserts “is the latest prominent figure linked to an online campaign that appears designed to support the Gupta family and the narrative that they are victims of White Monopoly Capital”. This interlude is then stringed together with “recent media reports and research by data analysts that have uncovered a web of fake twitter accounts and real, but strident opinion sites peddling a remarkably consistent narrative that aims to discredit key figures seen as standing in the way of the Gupta family interests”.
The challenge with this mouthful is that it appears designed to pit a South Africa in binary groups. These groups are defined and informed by good and evil. The reference to a Gupta-family interests is a consistent one, meaning the Guptas, however defined, are the bad fellows in a narrative of good and bad. Apparently the fake and real twitter accounts uncovered by data analysts have uncovered a concerted attempt to discredit key figures that attempt to block the Gupta-family interests.
One is compelled to ask: when before this recent uncovered fake and real twitter accounts and opinion sites, was a similar exercise undertaken to ascertain an apparent defence of any other family, group or business interest that we can today be told with certainty about the presence of both fake and real twitter accounts and strident opinion sites?
AmaBhugane does not share with us who these data analysts and researchers are. Neither do we know if the data analysts can help us to appreciate their findings from an empirical, contextual and comparative vantage point, where they can show us how in, other instances, similar accounts and sites were uncovered in the case of others that would help us to ascertain the benchmark for this claim?
AmaBhungane concretely an uncritically makes the claim of a “discrediting key figures. This is a another ambivalent and loaded construction of identity that evidences in a questionable claim, because amaBhungane does not specify what is meant with key figures. AmaBhungane assumes there exists an agreed general consensus on what makes for a key figure; it assumes we all share the same prism of such common definition.
Are we to assume that “key figures” are those who share a specific political, economic class status in our society, or can anyone be a key figure? What makes for a “key figure”? And since we engage a “key figure” status categorisation, as introduced by amaBhungane, is the natural assumption that should we determine a key-figure identity on someone that these figures are naturally exonerated from any question or challenge? If so, why, and who determines them above reproach?
Is AmaBhungane from its core mandate equally afforded the sole right to categorise this key-figure denotation to members of South African society?
By Amabhungane’s own admission, Kenny Kunene is a businessman with interests in several sectors of what constitutes the South African business world. Not only that, but he is also very much known in the social SA consciousness. Is Kenny Kunene therefore not a key figure if the frame of “key figure” identity as exacted on those who are famed, moneyed, politically powered, religiously powered, etc?
If Kunene passes the litmus test of being a key figure can the case be made that attempts are equally made by some to discredit him in the same vein as is claimed in amaBhungane’s narrow interpretation of that key figure status?
At another level, can so-called key figures question each other and what may constitute the acceptable means of a claim of such discrediting in that context? Recently Tito Mboweni on twitter made his views of Sipho Pityana emphatic, as using funerals when ANC members are active in the branches. By the assumed implied yardstick of amaBhungane, both Mboweni and Pityana are key figures. Would this statement on the part of Mboweni render him as discrediting Pityana? If so, why, and if not, why not? Is Tito Mboweni a defender of the Guptas because he clearly disagrees with the key figure of a Save SA campaign, namely Sipho Pityana? If Mboweni is not a discrediting Pityana, why are others who share the same view on Pityana accused for discrediting him?
Let me accentuate this. Is Sipho Pityana, as Chairperson of Anglo American, as a key figure, not engaging in discrediting others in South African society when he insults and hurls abuse at them? Equally, I am compelled to know from amaBhungane, is my analysis of Sipho Pityana’s behaviour, as carried in my blog and The New Age in 2016, an act of discrediting him? If so, why, and why would I then be considered a defender of the Gupta family and interests?
AmaBhungane, in pursuit of drawing links on Weekly Xposé’s supposed illegitimacy invokes the known history of Kunene as having served time for crime. This is then stringed together to create what amaBhungane has deemed a “media offensive aimed at backing President Jacob Zuma and his Gupta allies and delegitimise their political enemies”. Granted, the history of Kunene is known, yet to attempt to use that as a convenient crutch to build the case of the illegitimacy of Weekly Xposé is lame and hardly an attempt at being objective, particularly when you claim custodianship of standards for investigative journalism.
Again, the rhetoric of naturally good and bad is very pervasive in the mind of amaBhungane. According to amaBhugane the “media offensive is aimed at delegitimising their political opponents, especially at national treasury”. The jury remains is out on why amaBhungane can be this conclusive without attempting any form of objectivity that equally identifies a campaign from those whom amaBhungane considers as natural victims and angels in a very muddy political context of capital influence. Why this implicit, convenient and conscious siding with a group in claim of them being angels?
We must ask why a non-profit entity like amaBhungane, with its unequivocal prognosticated goals, finds natural comfort to prove uncritical of our convenient binary context and narrative that casts some politicians as evil while others are angels. From what comfort is this conviction drawn? This interesting conclusion and rhetoric has been peddled for over a year now and it has for some become the truth. The challenge remains, we do not know why some politicians are natural demons and others are natural angels?
It is further noteworthy that the South African Treasury is defined in the good of a personality, namely Pravin Gordhan, as the hero and messiah of protecting SA’s economy. If the rand does well it is due the sterling work of Gordhan, when the rand plummets it’s the conniving work of the evil ones. I am on record for having questioned when Pravin Gordhan became this messiah of South Africa’s economy, when all who today defend him in claim of undeniable economic messiah, castigated him in his first term.
Would amaBhungane equally categorise my analysis and critique of Gordhan and render me as one who delegitimises political opponents, and therefore a part of a media offensive?
Can we equally ask why the sum-total of Gordhan’s statements, if objectively analysed, is not considered as him personally engaging in his own media offensive against other key figures? We have read from a very loving media how Gordhan one minute is strong, and the next how he is asking for protection from what we still do not know, from what and from whom?
In our very flowing political context we must caution Amabhungane for its binary and myopic sense of seeing victims and villains in a scripted narrative of convenience, and what agenda it serves.
AmaBhungane takes the liberty to tag more names against a claim of “white monopoly capital” as appearing to form part of a social media community that also includes The New Age and ANN7 TV news channel.
Again, amaBhungane draws questionable conclusions. It fails to tell us why the claim of some it regards as Gupta-defenders are wrong to speak of a “white monopoly capital” defence by others. AmaBhungane fails to argue their right to have an opinion as unauthentic, irrelevant or the figment of an imagination. Why is it so deplorable and less tasteful to acknowledge the rights of others to identify a defence of white capital in SA’s current narrative?
It appears amaBhungane fails to appreciate the fundamental constitutional right of South African citizens to hold opposing views, for it rushes to prove intolerant of those it label.
AmaBhungane furthermore takes the liberty to call The New Age and ANN7 Gupta media, yet it does not tell us who owns ENCA, Daily Maverick and others. These platforms are not defined in a similar sense by ownership as amaBhungane takes the liberty with others.
May we know why these media entities are not equally identified by their owners, for example the Rupert family in media. May we know why the cross-section of news as carried, by for example ENCA, with its carefully chosen analysts is not accused of leading an offensive? May we know why journalists and analysts who opine in The Citizen, Mail & Guardian, Daily Maverick, and those who appear on ENCA, are not tagged with the label of strident opinions that lead an offensive against key figures?
I have sent my opinion pieces to all newspapers and was told I am no journalist. Equally, some editors refused to publish a view from the other side rendering South Africa’s media world a highly polarised one, where if you attempt objectivity in asking questions from those who control media you get labelled as being on an offensive, as being against the good and therefore a defender of evil. I ask again why amaBhungane only sees a media offensive from one side? And who determined the authenticity of that claim of an offensive? The New Age therefore over the last three years carried my opinion pieces because other platforms reject it.
In conclusion, if we can prove that amaBhungane is an active player in the media and political life of SA, as one who holds a specific view and defends a specific stance, can we then question it as perhaps not attempting any objectivity in analysis of other voices, instead rushing to label them as Gupta-family defenders obsessed with an agenda to delegitimise so-called key figures in defence of Zuma?
It appears that amaBhungane’s understanding of the South African thinking society is very narrow, actualised in binaries of good and evil people, in which we are brow-beaten to believe those that criticise the ANC-led government and its leadership; to see this analysis as correct and above reproach with no political agenda of its own. A narrative that renders you a Gupta defender when you articulate your understanding of what is happening in our discourse. AmaBhungane therefore uncritically defends some as victims of an onslaught and damns others, only because they do not agree with the stream of defined narrative.
I must remind amaBhungane that South Africans do think, but we don’t think in a uniform line. No amount of tagging and labelling will change the fact that South Africans do not all see and agree with the crafted picture portrayed by a section of the media – which ages ago opted to be on its own offensive and oppositional to transformation, where some are natural demons and others are angels in political and economic convenience.
I am compelled to question the authenticity of amaBhungane if this article is the fulcrum and barometer of it living out its publicised mandate and standard for practice. It is very possible that after my article I will also be labelled. It will not be the first time. Apartheid labelled me in the 80’s as a student activist. We dare not be silent. The obligation remains our collective task of asking questions, for in our society no one is above question, not even the non-profit amaBhungane.
It remains my contention that AmaBhungane, with this article, failed to make a coherent, systematic and chronological argument for the claim of illegitimacy of Weekly Xposé’s existence, both in ownership and content, and thus have perhaps compromised its egalitarian goals as articulated in its founding mandate.
In the end we must ask what threat does the Weekly Xposé pose, and for what reasons? Who is really so intimidated by its embryonic presence that it warrants to be annihilated and denigrated? This, when a constitutional democracy evidences the right of its existence and ownership by a businessman and investor.
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine