Political Commentator and Anchor Analyst for Weekly Xpose
The past weekend was a drama filled one for one of the leading ANC hopefuls. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa a serious contender for the top post of ANC President found himself in a proverbial hurricane – confronted with a breaking Sunday Independent story on his extramarital liaisons with a claimed slew of mostly young ladies. The number of eight is claimed confirmed as those who are linked to Ramaphosa in a variety of sexually explicit emails. From what we are told the Sunday Independent approached Ramaphosa to validate the email addresses that claimed to be his, he confirmed the three email addresses as his. In addition to the confirmation of the email addresses, he was asked a set of questions that apparently linked the respective emails as in touch with the ladies in question.
Ramaphosa it appeared exercised his legal right not to respond to the list of questions that purportedly places him in contact with the ladies. He instead opted to release a press statement on Friday night. This statement was not categorically denying any of the claims. It appears rather he opted for a safe and what he may have termed a neutral path. Unfortunately as is typical of these type of responses his press statement solicited more questions and really painted Ramaphosa more suspicious. I agree with my fellow political commentator Ralph Mathekge in his ENCA interview when he pointed out that the deputy president proved vague in his press statement as a means of a reply. He did not categorically deny neither confirmed the details. He instead rushed to defend his rights to privacy, followed with a salvo of claims of intelligence being behind this, smear campaign.
On Saturday night as a means of last resort Ramaphosa opted to go to court to interdict the Sunday Independent from publishing the story. He lost his bid since he failed to come prepared to argue his case for the urgency of the matter. Judge Vally ruled that Ramaphosa had sufficient time to respond to the Sunday Independent 5pm deadline and enquiry. The Judge went further to state that what was placed in front of him as core documents to substantiate Ramaphosa’s claim fell short in many ways. It appears Ramaphosa in haste and with sketchy legal advice rushed to court without affording himself opportunity to critically engage his chances of advancing the urgency notion.
The applicant’s case was therefore struck down, and he was ordered to pay for the legal costs of his own two senior counsel and that of the respondent. Perhaps a jurist may unpack the advice that Ramaphosa was served exemplified in the flimsy papers presented as his case for a case of urgency.
By the time the presiding justice ruled at 9h15pm the press machines were running at full speed to publicise what already was made public through social media platforms. That in a nutshell was the evidence of what transpired. In the aftermath of the happenings of this hurricane of a weekend, Sunday saw the three Sunday Independent, Sunday Times and City Press respectively ran with the story naturally told from their respective ideological distinct news vantage points. It is perhaps worth to attempt an analysis from arguments and statements put forth. This story laid bare a number of interesting things perhaps worth considering:
Was the Sunday Independent within its rights to run the story?
The contradicting commentary from segments of the SA society attest no uniform response on whether the running of the story was permissible. Some vocal ones interviewed immediately ran to their choice claims of a ‘smear campaign’ in the ilk of the apartheid machinery. Others felt it was unfair to drag private affairs into the mainstream political environment. Yet others hoped these were pure fabrications and gave Ramaphosa naturally the benefit of the doubt. However others expressed a deep sense of betrayal for the fact that Ramaphosa in his various capacities in Government could have lived this double life whilst advocating against the colloquial ‘blesser’ or ‘sugar daddy’ practices. They berated him for being a hypocrite.
The fundamental question however remains, was it within the rights of the Sunday Independent to run the story? Did the Sunday Independent comply with standard practice of right of reply in soliciting Ramaphosa’s opinion as the questions lead? Did they show him fairness in this regard? Despite the objections by some to the Sunday Independent running the story, there is very little evidence to suggest that its editorial leadership team did not do its job and gave Ramaphosa sufficient time to respond.
Judge Vally confirmed this in favour of the respondent particularly since Ramaphosa opted to respond to the question of confirming his extra email addresses. Therefore the views of what the story is interpreted to be, must necessarily be distinguished from the fact that such a story was made public in the interest of freedom of press milieu. Juxtaposing this story confirms a very interesting distinction that many who rushed to condemn it as a “smear and dirty tricks’ campaign, had no voice when the Sunday Times recently in stark graphic details did the same on another contender Jeff Radebe. It is here that one wishes to advance the case for a hypocrisy on the part of the media.
The hypocrisy and convenient amnesia of some in the media:
Some segments of the media and politicians quickly and necessarily biased made it out as a dirty tactics campaign at work. The interesting thing is another contender for high office Minister Jeff Radebe, incidentally the brother-in-law to Ramaphosa recently was outed by the Sunday Times for his sexual liaisons. We as the public were not consulted as to whether we were interested to hear the graphic details we may have been spared. The Sunday Times broke the story and no one levelled claims of dirty tricks, or a smear campaign against Radebe, against the Sunday Times.
The Sunday Times was not once accused of using intelligence agencies and structures for its publications on Radebe. It equally did not consider what they were doing as scuppering Radebe’s chances as the longest serving minister to summit the Kilimanjaro of ANC high office. Radebe and Ramaphosa are both candidates for high office. We didn’t hear the claims of an orchestrated smear campaign. If we therefore did not hear it then, we need not to hear it today. These are both respected senior ANC leaders that were outed by separate media houses.
Daily in South Africa segments of the claimed fourth estate run wild with allegations against ANC leaderships, be it the president or some conveniently targeted premiers. It is not strange to have media outlets zoning in and vilifying Premiers Ace Magashule (FS), Zihle Zikalala (KZN), Supra Mahumapelo (NW) and DD Mabuza (MP). ANC leaders like the SG Gwede Mantashe and the DSG Jessie Duarte and other NEC members are not spared either. Ministers in the like of Lynne Brown, Nomvula Mokonyane, Mosebenzi Zwane, Lindiwe Zulu, Faith Muthambi, Bathabile Dlamini, Fikile Mbalula and others are easily targeted by media outlets as sympathetic to President Zuma and therefore easy targets for attack.
As part of the campaign to make state capture stand, we saw how the SACC with its unburdening process at the hand of a Christian faith practice of penance took the liberty to mention people’s names when there existed no recourse for these people to challenge the SACC when it denigrated some in glaring political agenda sense. The ANC leaders were denied the right to challenge the SACC on its claims.
It therefore would appear the choice of framing some as ‘smear and dirty tricks’ campaigns is a convenient and shallow one and only afforded to some that these segments of the media have declared angelic. When others who are natural demons are denied the same benefit if the doubt.
Why would the releasing of this information serves as appropriate in this instance?
Let me start by saying we are in an elections season, it is to be expected that information of this nature on any candidate would become part of a campaign. There are those who remonstrate that this is a private and should not be made to stand in this setting, I concur it is private. I however am not sure why it cannot stand, particularly since CR17 attempts identifying their campaign as that in claim of a moral high ground. Deputy President Ramaphosa consciously chose to frame his press statement premised on the claim that his emails are private and therefore the invasion of his privacy must attest a breach of his privacy.
I therefore can accept that the emails are private, yet that privacy in a season of elections where morality is claimed to have evaporated and a due hunkering for its return is daily filling our discourse, compels all those who seek to lead to prove much more circumspect. In a season when SA is calling for responsible leadership where we have to decide leadership for those in public life, privacy cannot be made sacrosanct or an easy get out of jail card.
Ramaphosa with his strong emphasis on state capture – the latter if true presents a moral dilemma of political leadership crisis- has chosen to run a moral high ground campaign. He has therefore placed himself in the eye and ear of moral scrutiny with his undeniable and rightful moral challenge to state capture his core theme for his elections campaign. It therefore cannot be claimed that this is a private affair. If Ramaphosa never framed his campaign with morality at its core base, plausibly the case for a private affair may have a chance.
Secondly Ramaphosa, is vocal on the practices and behaviours of what is colloquially accepted as ‘blessers and blessee’ (an emerging subculture of seeing older men targeting young ladies, even students for coitus pleasure and in turn acts as the economic hub for the young ladies). His role as the face and voice of the very visible SA Aids Council in his capacity as Deputy President, cannot be left out of the equation and reduced to cheap third force claims of convenience. His just call for an ethic of political leadership immanent in morality of frame inadvertently compels him to practice much more circumspection in this regard.
What can we learn from Ramaphosa’s responses?
Ramaphosa after confirming his three email addresses as that which the Sunday Independent have as linked to him opted not to reply in timeous answer to the questions with a deadline of 5pm on Friday. He opted to use a press-statement, where he never denied the allegations and claims. He instead opted to centre the issue on an invasion of his privacy, claims of dirty tricks immanent nuanced state intelligence. He opted to play victim and therefore embraced deflecting the claims.
It is important to note that Ramaphosa as an attorney knows all to well how to steer clear from being lulled into being caught out in ones own articulation, therefore those who framed his public response proved conscious of not conceding to anything and opted to deflect. He therefore proved evasive and vague in all his subsequent media interactions. He went as far to claim that emails were obtained in an illegal manner and could also be doctored.
The startling contradiction here is Ramaphosa gives credence to state capture at the hand of equally leaked emails, that we hitherto have not established how it was justifiably obtained as legal. His drumming of action against sate capture upholds these emails as sacrosanct, authentic and not tampered with despite the fact that those implicated equally remonstrate the authenticity of such. He also embraces the leaked emails as credible in its current forms despite no case laid by any of those who kept us busy with their news advantage clippings at convenient periodic intervals confirming an orchestrated campaign. He seems to have opted for a more neutral and safe option of admitting to one affair.
Sunday Times Headline – “I am no blesser I had an affair”
The Sunday Times led with a headline “I am no blesser – I had an affair”, this information was shared between Saturday night and Sunday morning in an exclusive interview with Ramaphosa. This was the first veiled admittance of Ramaphosa to infidelity, which he claims occurred eight years ago. The interesting aspect is that by admitting to one as backed up by his spouse, Ramaphosa may have inadvertently admitted to the plausible credence of the emails. Let us not forget the Sunday Independent piece includes the person Ramaphosa admits to having had relations as per the emails.
He may therefore have opted to play safe to admit to one, in our society, its very ‘normal’ that one may have had at least one extramarital affair, particularly if the biblical dictum as advanced by Jesus Christ on adultery is used as the base: “You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not commit adultery’. But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart”. Matthew 5:27-28 (NKJV). This frame for adultery will have very few ever be able to claim they are innocent. Hence I cannot falter Ramaphosa for having at least sinned once in this area, when the bar is set this high by the captain of the Christian Salvation, a faith Ramaphosa like myself subscribe to.
Ramaphosa therefore with this exclusive Sunday Times admission conceded to past relations with his medical practitioner, as far back as eight years ago and that they are still in a professional relationship. He chooses to only admit to this one, and he has his wife supporting him on this. The challenge is conceding to one of the affairs as the Sunday Independent have shared, in name and person and communication between Ramaphosa and the lady in question translates to an inadvertent acknowledgment of the plausible truthfulness of the other emails and claims. Particularly if you read the emails and some video footage where one of the ladies is rather graphic.
Has the leaked Gupta emails in support of a state capture altered privacy claims?
One cannot help but ponder did the much made of GuptaLeaks as advanced by those who attempted to prove state capture not altered the claims of privacy forever? Some of ask back then, asked are we not legitimizing the encroachment and breach of ones constitutional franchise rights when society is in political agenda forced to validate and embrace personal and private leaked emails which its attaining may be questionable. Did the guptaleaks set the precedent for all of our rights to privacy to be trampled one? If the guptaleaks emails were justified despite its inadmissability in a court of law, not give birth to Ramaphosa emails leaks? Is one more wrong than the other, if so why, why would we justify one against the other? Should we not have condemned the Guptaleaks if we today seek to condemn the acknowledged Ramaphosa pseudo email address information? Where does this leave us as society, is anyone of us safe from having this invasion of privacy?
§ In the final analysis Ramaphosa’s option to refuse to respond to the Sunday Independent questions was his conscious choice and maybe a bad one, because he already had confirmed these email addresses as belonging to him.
§ Ramaphosa’s decision to opt for the hastily prepared ‘nothing saying‘ press statement did not assist his cause and lend himself evasive, entitled to special treatement and by all accounts as deflecting in potential politically spurious claims of intelligence involvement.
§ I have to also concur with Judge Vally, Ramaphosa had ample time to respond to the Sunday Independent deadline. His case of urgency could not stand legal muster because he failed to make the case for its urgency and failed to present a convincing case to interdict the Sunday Independent to publish information that already was leaked.
§ Ramaphosa’s acceptance of questionable guptaleaks emails, renders him compromised to cry foul when he becomes the victim of email leaks too.
§ Those who for whatever reasons both politically and otherwise conveniently choose to single out Ramaphosa’s leaked emails as a ‘smear campaign of dirty tricks’ must tell us why Radebe’s leaked information was not considered in equal claims of a smear campaign since these are both contenders in a heated race.
§ Ramaphosa again with his court attempt placed a question mark on his personal jurisprudence when he could not have foreseen that a judge confirming him clearly not taking his own case serious exemplified in the unpreparedness of two senior counsel he instructed to make his case on the frame of urgency.
§ Ramaphosa clearly has undeniable support as a serious contender in this ANC election year and season. He therefore will be defended by those who share his ideals and candidacy dream. He also have a right to fight back and such right must be respected. Yet he lost much this weekend and we must wait and see what this may mean as the days and weeks progress.
§ Maybe there is some good lesson to learn from the response of Jeff Radebe, who admitted and asked forgiveness and found a society more wiling to forgive. Maybe Ramaphosa should have opted to take a leaf from the book of Radebe and threw himself on the mercy of the people of Mzansi who in my estimation found ways to forgive apartheids murderers.
§ The Sunday Independent has vowed to share more information over the next few weeks, almost in the similar fashion of the guptaleaks. We have equally seen Weekly Xpose run two distinct stories of two women implicating Ramaphosa in these extramarital liaisons. We will have to wait and see how these will pan out and what Ramaphosa’s response may be.
§ However the critical aspect for consideration remains the issue of how these revelations sit with our fundamental need to work for an equitable non-sexist society, where our women unfortunately, remain the target of a male driven obsession to be objectified as pleasuring tools. The challenge is further exacerbated by the fact that by men proving vocal to defend Ramaphosa in claims of ‘smear campaign of dirty tricks’. Some senior male politicians perhaps in regard for their own maleness rushed to make this a smear campaign and failed to see the bigger picture.
What is undeniable is the leaked Radebe and now Ramaphosa messages have not served the just cause for advancing the emancipation of women.
§ We must engage this as a fulcrum moment and ask can we continue to talk about the rights of equality when we in leadership are exposed as glaringly hypocritical and dishonest hence enforcing the stereotypes when we in fig leaf protest a privacy claim.
It then must be cause for grave concern that politicians in this chequered and silly election seasons can in narrowness of political interest run to defend Ramaphosa or anyone without due critical analysis of their very defence for what it means for a society ravaged by the scourge of women abuse.
§ Ramaphosa as leader and face of government campaign for responsible sexual habits immanent in using prevention methods such as condomising, warrants being more circumspect in this regard. He thus must own up first and quit the attempting of deflecting in claim of victimhood.
§ Ramaphosa as a professing Christian, like all of us who claim that faith, running a morality campaign, must be held accountable for his actions since he subscribes to the dictums of a faith that has red carded infidelity.
§ Will we entertain similar behaviour from a woman candidacy? If not why not, are we still holding on to a narrow patriarchal society despite our founding principles of non sexism.
It was certainly the toughest week for the CR17 campaign, that already stands accused of being white controlled, stage managed, and run. A campaign that is dealing with stubborn Marikana albatross and now these inappropriate sexual leaks.
I fear no contradiction to claim that I did spent time in prayer for the ladies, their families and the Ramaphosa family no different to when the Radebe family was confronted with the same, for the impact these revelations have for the immediate families. Beyond the crafted public relations responses and makeshift brace faces these revelations usually takes its toll on families behind closed doors.
However it was more sad a moment for all of us as South African citizenry and those belonging to the globe that really seeks to make the emancipation of women count in a meaningful and honest manner. Ramaphosa did not do himself a favour neither did he do the cause of women emancipation any favour, let the ANC members decide if he is fit to lead.
§ “The vilification and death threats of Steve Motale as seasoned journalist and editor is equally without fairness or substance
We have not seen the same energy or accusations levelled against the Sunday Times editor for the Jeff Radebe story. We have not heard the same protests and personalising of a story in frame of being editor based.
Let us hope the attacks against Motale are not the residue of his letter sent to the President in which he confirmed and apologised for the role of the media in a sustained campaign to denigrate the President.
We must therefore equally condemn the hyena type attacks exacted by both politicians and a segment of the media who cannot stomach Steve Motale group editor of INL. We must ask, is press freedom not compromised by these attacks against a member of the media community?”
Clyde N.S. Ramalaine