For people with brains. And an internet connection
18 December 2017 20:17 (South Africa)
Opinionista Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

Dear comrade journalist Karima Brown... let's talk frankly

  • Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
    OnkgeposteBW
    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is one of South Africa’s leading media and communications specialists, as well as a community activist and a business executive. He is currently the Chief Executive of Oresego Holdings an International Advisory Company. His most recent roles were Head of Communications for COPE [2008], Political Advisor to the COPE parliamentary Leader as well as a Corporate Affairs Executive at the JSE listed Altron. He is a member of the University of the Western Cape Council, where he is an appointee of the Minister of Higher Education after serving two terms on the council of the Northwest University. He is an Associate of the prestigious international Institute of Independent Business (IIB). He is a regular columnist for The Sunday Independent and Pretoria News. In 2011 he rejoined the ANC as an ordinary member. Tabane is a PHD Candidate in Media and Journalism Studies at WITS University.

It's been a long journey for you since the days when you were a junior producer of AM Live on SABC Radio. As a spin-doctor, I always admired your professionalism when going about getting your story and turning it into riveting radio.

Even while working for the public broadcaster you always had an insatiable appetite for a good story and not just propaganda. I remember this vividly because not every story I ‘sold’ you made it into your precious programme. But as I said, it's been a long time since those days.

Your conversion into an embedded journalist has come as a bit of a shock but with so many journalists using the criticism of our movement as a yardstick of independence, not too many in the movement really would mind if we have a few journalists like you who openly support the cause. So a part of me is really on your side.

But lets talk frankly… Of course immersing yourself in the politics of the party means you cannot escape the glaring factionalism that has come to characterise the African National Congress (ANC) in the recent past. Your ability to have finer details of the factional scripts of party machinations ahead of Polokwane had you painted in Blade Nzimande’s corner for the longest of times. In fact there were even more blunt accusations of an inappropriate 'toenadering' – a too close for comfort relationship for a journalist and the head of a political party to flaunt.

And being too close to the fire is not always a good idea for a journalist, you will agree. Hence your jumping of the gun after last year’s elections with a story on the front page of The Star telling us Ntombi Mekgwe would be Gauteng premier (the result of a factional leak). But the following day your inside sources failed to tell you number one and two had overturned that decision overnight. You were better off waiting for the official announcement, like all of us, but every newspaperman likes a scoop. I am sure when you were made the boss of journalists 10 years your senior your competent connectedness came in handy; it was something some of them could not claim and would surely be an indication of the scoops that we could expect from you in future. But I digress.

And so by donning the ANC colours at our movement's birthday bash in the mother city, we learnt nothing new about your allegiance as these had already been established over the years. But we did learn more about how brazen you have become in your quest to be seen as more ANC than is called for in the context of your profession, whose very credibility rests on some level of objectivity... if I may understate the matter a little just to make you feel better. We all know that objectivity is dead; we don't need you shoving it in our face so very brazenly.

There is no doubt that the media needs transformation and the takeover of the Independent group must be welcomed. More so because with our pension fund having being partially used to acquire it, we must all feel a sense of ownership. That ticks only one box of the BEE scorecard, the one called ‘ownership’. The rest of the BEE elements will need hard slog ahead, employment equity being the bane of them all.

Let me hasten to add that Max du Preez is wrong to assume transformation does not mean replacing the current lot in the media with ANC deployees or something to that effect. In fact it may well mean ANC supporters can also be good journalists like you are, even though there may be very few takers willing to flush away their journalistic careers for the factional politics of our glorious movement.

So the second box to tick, that of employment equity, will need serious effort. I mean I don't imagine the Sunday Times journalist who exposed Pallo Jordan’s fake qualifications making it to your payroll for example. He was, after all, just recently a member of the Democratic Alliance (DA). Please jog my memory, but wasn’t there also a Business Report journalist who suffered your chop by daring to try and make it on to the DA’s candidate list? You do get my drift, I hope? I am told it was because he chose to wear DA underwear instead of being as bold as you were in Cape Town with a panama hat of ikongolose.

Creating an impression that transformation of the media should necessarily mean bootlicking the ruling party is a disservice to that cause. Imagine if a journalist went to interview President Jacob Zuma wearing an Economic Freedom Fighters’ beret. It would have been a front-page outrage, I am sure. Bigger than your fake headlines about Mekgwe being premier. I am certain you will agree. I am told you posted a photo of Carien Du Plessis wearing an EFF beret on Facebook as part of your lame retort against this ethical travesty.

You are both wrong… but thanks for letting us know of this trend, this donning of political colours habit. I don't have to tell you these two wrongs still don't add up to something you should be proud of.

But there is always a silver lining now the ANC memorabilia vendors can set up a stall outside your Sauer Street offices so that in future your comrade in arms, Vukani Mde, won’t have to borrow his wife's T-shirt but can have his own.

Now for the Du Preez saga. I personally would not have only journalists and columnists who are agreeable if I wanted to maintain credible publications. Losing Max was a bad idea and you should have done a lot more to keep him. You have thrown him to Rapport now and that is so lame and obvious. Here is a guy who probably made Afrikaners buy your papers. But I guess it was more important to apologise to Msholozi than some silly rainbow nation considerations of misplaced objectivity and independence. Believe me I understand that fully. Max is not gonna be paying your advertising soon and he will not help you curry favour with number one. Eish, he can be so disrespectful sometimes, that Max.

But, frankly speaking, comrade, you know as well as I do that there was the option of just saying to Mac Maharaj: “Look uncle this is an OPINION PIECE not an EDITORIAL of our paper and uncle Mac you can write a rebuttal and I will give you the right of reply. But an apology? Come now, comrade, what has happened to your journalistic instincts? What has happened to independence? What has happened to debate? If Max is wrong like many opinionistas get it wrong everyday, why apologise on his behalf? Surely he can apologise on his own behalf or argue his point further in your hallowed pages? I mean your Sunday Independent even has a debate section where people often take each other on head to head. Why not have Max and Mac go head to head instead and give your readers riveting Sunday reading instead of blowing the referees whistle so early? Come on, comrade journalist, you are losing it.

But I guess this is how the political cookie crumbles these days. All the best as you tackle all the other boxes of your BEE scorecard at the non-independent group. See you at congress.

Yours frankly,

Onkgopotse JJ Tabane DM

  • Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
    OnkgeposteBW
    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

    Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is one of South Africa’s leading media and communications specialists, as well as a community activist and a business executive. He is currently the Chief Executive of Oresego Holdings an International Advisory Company. His most recent roles were Head of Communications for COPE [2008], Political Advisor to the COPE parliamentary Leader as well as a Corporate Affairs Executive at the JSE listed Altron. He is a member of the University of the Western Cape Council, where he is an appointee of the Minister of Higher Education after serving two terms on the council of the Northwest University. He is an Associate of the prestigious international Institute of Independent Business (IIB). He is a regular columnist for The Sunday Independent and Pretoria News. In 2011 he rejoined the ANC as an ordinary member. Tabane is a PHD Candidate in Media and Journalism Studies at WITS University.

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