Steve Motale. Picture Courtesy: Supplied

In The News Opinion South Africa

Analysis: Sunday Independent Editor Motale speaks out – Deputy President Ramaphosa remains silent

In an interview on 702 last week I was asked as to why fidelity is made a condition for political leadership. My response was South Africa is and remains a secular state, yet the nation is undeniably religious, as every census has shown. Thus at both individual and collective levels South Africans draw their frames of a morality from such multi-religious reality.
It is therefore not wrong to argue the election of an ANC President is not in the ilk of electing a Pope. However Deputy President Ramaphosa’s campaign for high office projects him a paragon of morality and beacon of hope in what has become for some an amoral society. His categorical state capture claims confirms this, he therefore must be held accountable to that morality he espouses and cannot now assume he is exempted from it when he has framed his campaign with morality as its anchor. We therefore warrant understanding Ramaphosa’s responses from this vantage point.
It becomes important though in an adumbrated sense first reflect on what has happened thus far before we flag the outstanding challenges with Ramaphosa’s response thus far. The anchor for this analysis is and remains the Steve Motale penned note simply entitled “HERE IS THE TRUTH.” Motale I would imagine became forced to pen this record and this record accompanied by courts findings is what stands in the silence of Ramaphosa.
The events of the last week as led by a breaking story of the Sunday Independent, revealed many aspects for due consideration. The story broke last Friday on social media when a set of questions sent to Deputy President Ramaphosa’s private emails were leaked to some social media platforms. Prior to the leak, Steve Motale the group editor of Sunday Independent contacted Ramaphosa to ascertain a safe and private email address to forward confidential and personal questions. Ramaphosa responded in providing Motale with two email addresses. These two email addresses unfortunately were corresponding as the same email addresses used for the alleged communications with a slew of young ladies. Ramaphosa was given until September Friday 5pm to respond to the set of questions.
According to Motale, Ramaphosa informed him closer to the deadline that he needed more time. However Ramaphosa did two things that same Friday night that perhaps sets him up for question. Ramaphosa chose to have the first of two press statements he would share in less that 24hours and he also dispatched his campaign manager Benjani Chauke to meet with Motale. We will revert back to these as we making sense of Ramaphosa’s haphazard and sketchy choices and hitherto silence. It was agreed between Ramaphosa and Motale that he would respond by Saturday morning 10am. Again Ramaphosa missed that deadline and rather opted to release his second press statement.
The same Saturday Ramaphosa extended calls to the owner of the Sunday Independent, Dr. Iqbal Surve, according to the published version of Motale’ side of the tale, Ramaphosa begged Surve not to publish the story. Surve shared with Ramaphosa that he cannot interfere with editorial content as the shareholder. He also extended a call to Motale confirming the editor’s right as it relates to content. The day further unfolded when around 4pm Ramaphosa gave notice that he will go to court. The case informed by a claim of urgency was sit down for hearing firstly for 6pm, but court procedures only started around 8pm.
Judge Bashir Valli presided over the case and in scathing sense dismissed the case, challenging the claim that it was urgent, equally decrying the fact that what he was presented with was of substandard to formulate a claim for urgency. The ruling confirmed that Sunday Independent had given Ramaphosa adequate time and he did not use that wisely. He thus struck the application down ordered the applicant to pay the costs for two senior counsels. With this ruling at around, 9h10pm the Sunday independent printing machines were running full steam to publish the story as its headline.
Following the publication, which Motale confirms, was a more subdued story; Motale became the focus of the story since his email was leaked as it was sent to the Ramaphosa private email addresses. What next unfold is strange for many reasons,
Ramaphosa despite given ample time to respond to these submitted questions opted not to answer them. He first asked in an sms for more time citing he needed more time “ to collate information that I need to put before you about the allegations.” Despite given an extension of time as solicited by Ramaphosa, he in two press statements failed to respond to any of the questions. Ramaphosa opted to go to the SundayIndependent rivals Sunday Times to give them an exclusive that was purely aimed at killing the story. Ramaphosa was asked in parliament on the incidents of the week and he promised the legislature he will in a day or two respond. He has hitherto not answered the questions. It is here that we must conclude Ramaphosa is rather cagey on answering the questions, he will forgive us as the public to assume beyond his one admitted affair with one of the very ladies that communicated with him on the same email addresses he has not been forthcoming.
Ramaphosa made choices for press statements, these press statements instead of responding to the questions attempted to be a deflection in claims of it being a smear campaign of dirty tricks. He went on to assert his emails were hacked and that there is involvement of intelligence sources in this smear.  This choice instead of helping Ramaphosa rather paints him as attempting to play victim. He singles himself out as the target of a smear campaign yet he does not draw the lines to extend the same to the Sunday Times exposed Jeff Radebe philandering claims. We must now surmise that his choice for press statements rendered him compromised for he failed to even answer the questions in categorical sense.
In all of the Ramaphosa communications be it private or public with the Sunday Independent staff and ownership Ramaphosa never outright denied the existence of the emails or its veracity. The closest he comes to say anything about the emails is his claim of his emails being hacked. This conclusion is crucial since anyone accused of these emails, which are innocent, would have long categorically denied his role, and disowned the communications. Ramaphosa has not done any of that as yet.
Despite Ramaphosa being told by Motale this was personal hence sent to his private emails, he nevertheless chose to dispatch his campaign manager Benjani Chauke. Chauke met with Motale at 8h30pm. The reasons for the meeting as solicited by Chauke were he was sent to understand the claims better. This does not make sense because the questions were straightforward. We must ask why Ramaphosa would dispatch Chauke to meet with Motale unless it was to make the story go away? It does not sound to cynical to conclude that Ramaphosa was a cornered and desperate man and he needed to find any possible means to have the story go away.
Ramaphosa in a desperate sense decided to reach out to Surve the owner of INL. The reason for this reach out was to solicit the story not being published. Two blunders are committed with this reach out. Ramaphosa knows the separation of media ownership and editorial independence. He despite knowing that opted to disregard this fundamental principle for press freedom as a cardinal aspect of the constitutional democracy. Why would Ramaphosa prove this willing to blur the lines of ownership and editorial independence? Only Ramaphosa can tell us why he opted for this approach. We the public warrant knowing why the deputy president opted for this behaviour.
As indicated earlier the questions though sent to Ramaphosa’s private email addresses were leaked. The questions had the personal contact details of Motale as editor. This in leaked sense exposed Motale to threats and vilification from people who claimed to be endorsing the Ramaphosa candidacy. Hitherto Ramaphosa did not condemn those who in his name threaten a journalist. It cannot be assumed that Ramaphosa sits behind the threats yet he has an obligation to publicly condemn them as not acceptable in democracy.
Not only does the Ramaphosa allegations reveal challenges on the part of Ramaphosa, but its also brings the media into glaring hypocritical sense as biased and choosey on who it wants to support. Motale despite being reputable and seasoned media personality and editor is not having support from SANEF and its leadership. There are no campaigns led in similarity of the much made and choreographed martyrdom of an SABC 8.
AmaBhungane does not ask why the rights of investigative journalism are trampled upon as this situation attests. There is no energy exerted to defend one of media’s own in this instance Steve Motale. Perhaps we should not take the media serious when they next time cry wolf, because it appears only some journalists matter.
We can only hope Motale is not still hated for outing the media agenda for their agreed campaign of vilifying the sitting president Jacob Zuma.
September 11, this memorable day in USA history marks eleven days from the first time Ramaphosa was asked to answer the questions and hitherto he has not answered any of the questions despite making promises in even parliament to do so.
Deputy President is yet to explain his flurry of actions immanent in not answering the questions (despite him asking for more time), dispatching his campaign manager Benjani Chauke to meet with Motale. He is yet to make plain his two press statements, extending telephone calls to Surve attempting to exert his influence on the editor. He has to explain his approach to the court and why he felt it warrant an urgent application. Ramaphosa warrants explaining what compelled him to be willing to extend an exclusive interview to the Sunday Times.
He warrants explaining his for some fallacious claims of intelligence involvement in this what he conveniently termed a smear campaign. He is yet to explain his claim of a smear campaign and dirty tricks, when he does not extend this to others such as his own brother in law Minister Jeff Radebe. Ramaphosa has to explain how his moral claims on State Capture interact with his personal alleged immoral behaviour that depicts him in colloquial sense a ‘blesser’. He must explain why the ‘blessers’ cannot point a finger at him for being a hypocrite in condemning them when he is playing in that same pigsty.
It is not difficult to accept Motale’s truth, since he in an extensive gives a chronology of events that depicts him as editor making professional and ethical choices. The same cannot be argued for Ramaphosa. We must wait and see if Ramaphosa will take South Africans into his confidence, until then we remain hopeful the truth on his part will manifest.
Political commentator Clyde Ramalaine. PICTURE: Supplied

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