Business Maverick

DAYS OF ORWELL

DMRE issues ‘media monitoring’ tender, including a warning system for ‘media-launched attacks’

The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has issued a questionable tender for a media monitoring service that seems oppressively Orwellian and uses the terminology of war. It will include an early-warning system to provide alerts of ‘incoming media-launched attacks on the department’ and monitoring of the ‘tone’ journalists take.

The tender calls for a “service provider to render effective media monitoring and analysis for a period of 24 months”. There is a briefing about it on 22 March and the tender’s closing date is 6 June, but there are signs that the fix is already in. 

“With the current ‘information overload’ that departments are faced with on a daily basis, the department requires a service provider who will extract the information (product) we require and delivers it to the departmental desktop,” the DMRE says. “A service provider who will also provide most comprehensive media analysis service to the department and the Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy.”

Drilling down, the tender contains some real gems. 

“Smart Monitoring” is among the deliverables.  

“This is an early warning system by which the provider alerts clients via SMS/ WhatsApp, of incoming media-launched attacks on the department. Such alerts should include, but not be limited to: negative commentary, sector-related issues, defined spokesperson comments etc,” it says. 

This, folks, is the terminology of war: an early-warning system to raise the alarm about “incoming media-launched attacks”. Mantashe is not shy of such language, recently urging African countries and their leaders to be cautious of “encirclement” by developed countries who are allegedly trying to dictate the pace of the clean energy transition. 

It seems the DMRE – and presumably its minister, Gwede Mantashe – has come to regard legitimate media reporting on, and criticism of the department’s many shortcomings as “media-launched attacks”. 

Transparency hitting a nerve

Bringing the light of transparency – one of our roles in the media – to the department’s multiple governance failures has clearly hit a nerve.

This is not “attacking”. It’s called reporting. 

And there are other nuggets in the tender. 

Other desirables include that “the top 10 publications/stations/online/social media for the month should be indicated in a graph, which will include information on: frequency, tone , the publication/station names and Net Effect”.

The term “tone” is also used in reference to individual journalists. 

“A breakdown of the top 10 journalists with Net Effect scores to be indicated to each journalist. The top 10 journalists for the month should be indicated in a graph, which will include information on: frequency, tone, the journalist’s name and Net Effect”. 

So the “tone” publications and journalists use in their coverage of the department is to be monitored and measured. Nothing sinister or Orwellian about that. 

spy intelligence watchdog

Media monitoring? (Image: iStock)

Raising a number of questions

This all raises a number of questions, of course. One involves costs. This is clearly a questionable use of scarce state funds – the economy is likely in recession, S&P has just downgraded its outlook on South Africa’s credit rating, and the Treasury is not exactly flush with cash. 

Google Alerts, for example, is a free service. Surely its in-house staff can use that to monitor media coverage of the department, which in and of itself is a perfectly legitimate activity. 

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The wording of the tender in some places also raises red flags.

“It looks like they already have a preferred bidder – the wording in the section under objective, especially the second paragraph, reads too much like an ad blurb that one of the companies would have shared with them. And the general tone of much of it suggests they already have a preferred bidder.” William Bird, Director of Media Monitoring Africa, offered Daily Maverick that opinion on the document. 

The paragraph reads as follows:

“This leading technology, combined with high-tech scanning and computing capabilities allows an increase in ‘read’ accuracy in excess of 20% over the traditional, manual-read methods – 20% of client-relevant print coverage is normally missed by monitoring companies employing traditional, manual read and evaluating methods, which is currently used by the Chief Directorate.”

That does read like an ad blurb. Another analyst who viewed the document voiced similar concerns. 

The DMRE had not responded to Daily Maverick queries at the time of going to press. 

Meanwhile, the mining industry, environmentalists and other stakeholders are waiting for the tender for a functional mining cadastre –  which the DMRE has promised to issue by the middle of March, so in the next week or so. DM/BM

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Patrick Devine says:

    Cut and paste 80% of the quote and guess who was the 1st google search hit:

    McKinsey….

  • Gareth Dawson says:

    Although I am not in anyway saying that the tender is not Orwellian in nature, the DoE has put out the same tender with this language for at least the last 5 years. The “marketese” in this tender is something new though.

    Previous tenders asking for an “early warning system by which the provider alerts clients via SMS, of incoming media-launched attacks on the Department” were put out under David Mahlobo and Jeff Radebe.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Patrick : does McKinsey really still operate in South Africa? I would be fascinated to know what corporates or departments would still engage. Thirty years ago they were entirely useless at substantive, technical subject matter management consulting work. Basically they sprouted exactly what OpenAI responds with now. Then followed 30 years of playing politics because in that field nobody will call you out for sprouting rubbish as long as you sprout what the cheque book likes.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    Nothing this gnome says, does, or initiates should surprise us. The way he responses to probing questions tells of his HUGE inferiority complex.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Holy shyt. The question must be what they are scared of…?

  • Neil Parker says:

    What we need is an early warning system for idiotic ministerial statements , corruption and maladministration Gwede lives in such a fool’s paradise that he probably believes that if media reports on load-shedding are stopped, load-shedding will magically disappear. That remark should put me right up there in Gwede’s ‘top ten’ list of bogey men!

  • Peter Smith says:

    It is quite clear what this is about. They want to identify hostile journalists so that they can go after them and thus silence the media. They may intimidate, harass, blackmail or discredit. These are just some of the tools available to a powerful state organisation.

    They have reached a desperate impasse with no solutions in sight and good investigative journalism is revealing their naked incompetence and greed. The only solution they have left is to silence the messenger in the hope that this will salvage the elections. Expect more of this.

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    I might be exaggerating, but to me it sounds like the beginning of media control😳

  • Mpumi Bikitsha says:

    Good grief! Can they just stop abusing taxpayers’ money??? Lord help us!

  • Theart Korsten says:

    Finally the Russian training is paying off. This is not Orwellian. This is KGB style cold war tactics. So in a Constitutional Democracy, this is allowed. He is allowed to spend tax payers money to fight off tax paying citizen journalists that make the department look bad. Wow! Then what, threats and bullying.

  • Isis Limor says:

    Mantashe doesn’t want to named as ‘the minister in question’… paranoid to the point of an admission of guilt. ‘We need to watch they don’t expose me’… media monitoring… this wouldn’t stand up in court.

  • Richard Bryant says:

    Just recall how this muppet behaved when he was confronted on the wild coast when he tried to give his Australian mates mining rights there. He brought in the army to intimidate the local community. He’s just like putin. Hates the media to expose him. Couldn’t care about what the community think or want. Wouldn’t hesitate to use police or army to soften up anyone who opposes him. His comment in the media about De Ruyter being a threat to the State tells a lot about the type of abuse he is willing to employ.

  • jimpowell says:

    Scared of robust criticism, which they can respond to. Our politicians are so emotionally sensitive

  • Ian McGill says:

    What the ANC wants is SA to become a one-party state with the ANC being the source of all wisdom.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    Almost a smoke screen so that Mrs Mantashe with her Karpowership, coal trucking and Manganese Mine accusations can fall under the same umbrella. His media espionage agency can then save the day. So editors please have your lawyers ready. The “jacket” is coming for you.

  • Thinker and Doer says:

    This is wasteful expenditure and gravely concerning. The Minister and Department want to try to control the media and stifle critical investigative reporting. This is in line with their paranoia about environmentalists, “encirclement by the west”, and any critical assessment of their policies and pet projects in the media. They are so thin-skinned to any criticism, they can only respond with attacks. This is a serious threat to transparency, accountability and freedom of expression, and must be vigorously called out by civil society. If they actually did their jobs properly, there would not be a need for the criticism that they are so affronted by! Because they are abjectly failing in their mandate and duties, they must be subject to justified criticism. That is how democratic governments function, but they want to undermine that severely.

  • D'Esprit Dan says:

    This is a disgusting abuse of taxpayer money by a department that has, under Mantashe, destroyed South Africa as a world class mining jurisdiction. The last note is telling: he won’t buy an off the shelf mining cadastre, but will employ some sleazy spooks to spy on journalists. When do they then target comments below the line? Stalinist filth.

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    Next we’ll have a Minister of News.

  • Kelsey Boyce says:

    very very interesting

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    Ha ha – reading what everyone has to say about government and Gwede particularly in the media on a daily basis, I think the application’s “negative comments” storage area will max out pretty quickly and the servers likely burn out. 😀 😀

  • Hilary Morris says:

    Wouldn’t it have been such a relief to have had a president brave enough to do his job and get rid of the corrupt? Of course it would basically have left him without a cabinet and just imagine what an improvement that would have been. Mantashe is arguably, the biggest threat to democracy that we have. A truly scary man.

  • Brian Cotter says:

    A bit of fun – Gwede’s Goatee. A goatee is a style of facial hair incorporating hair on one’s chin but not the cheeks. The exact nature of the style has varied according to time and culture. There is debate over whether this style is correctly called a goatee or a Van Dyke. Satan was given the likeness of Pan, leading to Satan traditionally being depicted with a goatee in medieval art and Renaissance art. The goatee would not enjoy widespread popularity again until the 1940s, when it became a defining trait of the beatniks in the post-World War II United States. The style remained popular amongst the counter-culture until the 1960s before falling out of favor again. In the 1990s, goatees with incorporated mustaches became fashionable for men across all socioeconomic classes and professions, and have remained popular into the 2010s.
    The Satan comment tweaked memories of the many depictions and the no moustache look puts you back into the counter culture of the 60’s. Comrade Gwede.

  • William Dryden says:

    It’s amazing that Ramaphosa is putting Eskom back under the DMRE now that Mantashe had successfully gotten rid of De Ruyter (implying that he De Ruyter was trying to bring down the State).
    The fact that it has been highlighted that there are 4 coal Mafia operating within Eskom and the fact that Mantashe has recently stated that coal will be used for the foreseeable future, asks the question is Mantashe part of the Mafia circle. Also now with the state of Emergency for electricity, will he bulldoze through his pet project the Karpowership deal.

  • Jairo Arrow says:

    You don’t need a service provider for this kind of work. A computer literate employee can manage Comrade GM‘s – (Genetically Modified) – Orwellian Spazashop using ChatGPT.

  • Geoff Woodruff says:

    George Orwell nearly got it right. He should have called his book 1994

  • cjg grobler says:

    DM should tender for the contract

  • William Kelly says:

    Ed. Eddie. The Edster. Cupcake. Sweetie darling. We’ve been in this war for years. But nice of you to join. How we do fight back? I’d start by asking every one with a story aroubd this, every snippet of information, every whispered rumour to start posting as much as they can as often as they can, and of course tracking who wins this ‘tender’. If as alluded by another commentator this is not new, has it been run in the past and by whom? In which case the enemy has already shown their head above the parapets and it’s time to shoot it off.

  • Johan Buys says:

    Is it just me or is Mantashe working very hard on looking like a cross between Mao and Lenin?

  • Ou Soutie says:

    There’s something to Minister Gwede Mantashe’s idea. I understand that some 60% of the ESKOM personnel are under employed. The Honourable Minister could publish each week:
    – How much coal per grade has been delivered/used per power station, per delivery “agent”;
    – How much diesel has been delivered/used per power station, per delivery “agent”;
    – What equipment has been stolen/broken per power station each week;
    – Which people were able “to eat” this week.
    There may be other measures that can be published. Any ideas?

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    This Putin clone has to be stopped ! What was remarkable is that he even managed to ‘wrap up’ a judge (for yourself ) who is pretty astute, in a recent interview about Eskom on tv, with some ‘glib’ answers … which the judge seemed to buy into ! DM is an obvious target .

  • Gordon Bentley says:

    This poisonous, idiotic Gnome must be disposed of, soonest

  • Rehana Moola says:

    What a waste of taxpayer money! Not only the money to be spent on this tender but also Gweezy’s salary and perks that we pay for. The man should just fade into oblivion like all the other dinosaurs.

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    To W. Kelly … they (the ANC) have been doing it almost since they came into power … but under another guise called ‘state security’ … of which Arthur Fraser and Mlobo et al recently, come to mind momentarily . Gwede just wants to do it ‘openly’ ! Is this move not anti-constitutional … in that it goes against freedom of the press/media ? Pierre’s take on this aspect would be informative . Time to ‘take down’ Gwede while we still have a constitution … which incidentally CR helped to draft !

  • Kanu Sukha says:

    I think it is time for Gwede to have his ‘day in court’ like his colleague JZ … not on the piffle Bosasa bribery issue … but for constitutional delinquency !

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