Ruling the media roost an old ANC tactic – An SABC TV veteran remembers… | Fin24
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Ruling the media roost an old ANC tactic – An SABC TV veteran remembers…

Jan 26 2017 18:08

Veteran journalists have long memories and long may they continue to contribute to the public weal, reminding us of patterns and historic shenanigans that speak to contemporary events.

This is the case with former SABC TV veteran Ed Herbst who links a low point in recent ANC-swayed South African journalism history with current events, while recalling another astonishing example of profligate and useless spending by the SABC in an attempt to turn the corporation around. History is a powerful teacher.

The erstwhile repeated suggestion that a completely independent outsider (i.e. an overseas professional) be hired to run the corporation is no-less relevant today than as it was then.

That would eliminate the chances of accusations that party-favouring bias is behind any coverage. We all know that the ruling party has ruled the airwaves since time immemorial, and this is one suggestion that would address that – and any chance of the accusation being levelled in reverse by the political incumbents. – Chris Bateman

By Ed Herbst*

30. Whilst not clearly stated at the time, I strongly suspect that the 2003 leaking of the report was the first attempt by Ebrahim Rasool (“Rasool”), with the assistance of Orrie, to use me as a journalist to smear Mcebisi Skwatsha (“Skwatsha”) in their political rivalry.

40. At these meetings Rasool referred to us, the Inkwekwezi trio, as his “air force”, meaning his front line of attack against the Skwatsha camp or his other political rivals. It was also at these meetings that Orrie would say that it was difficult to fly the planes when the fuel tanks are dry, suggesting we couldn’t do the work without payment. – Ashley Smith confession 4/7/2010

The ANC paid her R100 000 earlier this month and acknowledged that the balance of R900 000 was still outstanding but was not payable at this stage. Bolani said the reason she filed the application to be heard urgently was because she and her company had been in dispute with the ANC for a long time. She said she had not been able to pay her staff. – Ernest Mabuza The Times 24/1/2017

If anyone doubts Stephen Mulholland’s contention –  that the ANC is utterly incompetent – then the latest little wavelet in its Tsunami of Sleaze, the ‘War Room’/‘Black Ops’/‘Paid Twitter’ political smear campaign should dispel that doubt because it was a hardly-credible SNAFU from start to finish.

For Capetonians in general and its small media contingent in particular the  ANC’s latest embarrassment would have been a painful reminder of the 2005 Ashley Smith/ Ebrahim Rasool/ Marius Fransman  Air Force/Brown Envelope saga.

While the ‘War Room’ was an attempt, by nefarious means, to undermine opposition parties before last year’s municipal elections, the suborning by Rasool and Fransman of embedded journalists Ashley Smith and Joseph Aranes  – the ‘Air Force’ – was an immensely destructive and utterly corrupt act of political self-immolation.

It was aimed by Rasool and Fransman not at opposition parties but at the Mcebisi Skwatsha faction within the Western Cape ANC.

It began in 2004 when Marthinus van Schalkwyk took the rump of the National Party into the African National Congress – where it was perfectly at home because they had everything in common – in return for his forty pieces of silver, a ministerial post and, ultimately, a diplomatic posting to Greece.

After decades of Democratic Alliance control the Western Cape, at provincial and municipal level, was then an orchard of low-hanging fruit which stretched from horizon to horizon.

The ANC snouting started immediately.

Companies linked to the ‘Brown Envelope’ scandal snouted more than R50m.

The ‘Air Force’ initiative tore the ANC in the Western Cape apart and, to this day the scars have not healed.

The ANC is now scrambling to downplay the ‘War Room’ story and this replicates its efforts in the ‘Air Force’ saga.

In 2006 ANC Deputy Justice Minister Andries Nel was tasked to investigate the Brown Envelope scandal.

Unsurprisingly, as his report indicates, he made no effort to interview Rasool or Fransman.


Deputy Minister for Rural Development and Land Reform Mcebisi Skwatsha (R) with the MEC for Agriculture and Rural Development in KwaZulu-Natal Cyril Xaba (L) hand over a sum of R5.2m to the tenants of Verulam Mission in Durban at the City Hall.

He already had the under-oath testimony of Smith which Smith was willing to defend in court. He also had the account of Benny Gool and Roger Friedman of Oryx Media who are trusted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu to handle his press conferences. Gool and Friedman testified how Rasool and Fransman had tried to launder payments to their ‘Air Force’ through Oryx Media.

Prima facie evidence does not get more prima facie than that but the ANC did everything in its power to prevent the report, inadequate as it was, from being made public and the Hawks, predictably, dropped the investigation.

The ‘War Room’ story will quickly fade from public ken as did the ‘Air Force’/Brown Envelope saga and, to keep on snouting, the ANC relies on the short attention span of a public that has become inured by repetitive daily corruption scandals.

What is puzzling, though, is that after two decades of repetitive non-payment of suppliers by the ANC – ask Jack Bloom, he’ll tell you – Sihle Bolani didn’t have enough street-smarts to ask for payment upfront.

In closing: The SABC is very much in the news at the moment as the televised hearings in parliament indicate but I would like to recall a truly mind boggling example of wasteful expenditure.

In 2012 the SABC paid DeLoitte Consulting R50m for a ‘turnaround’ strategy’ which obviously, even if it was ever implemented, has not worked.

In my personal opinion, even by the standards of the ANC’s ‘Hyena state’ that amount is a bit rude.

What is intriguing though is the pragmatism of Sandile Gwala of Deloitte Consulting who, in a secret letter to Pravin Gordhan, recommended bringing somebody from abroad to be SABC CEO for a few years.

No matter who is appointed to the interim SABC board, the place is still full of the newsroom ‘enforcers’ that Hlaudi Motsoeneng and Jimi Matthews trusted and cleaning that Augean Stable is going to be a formidable task.

Appointing an outsider with no vested interest could go a long way to restoring public trust which has been further eroded by the SABC evidence in parliament recently and the ‘War Room/Black Ops/ Paid Twitter’ saga.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.
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