First published in the Daily Maverick 168 weekly newspaper.
Four years ago, two whistleblowers risked everything by leaking the #GuptaLeaks to Daily Maverick, which, in turn, immediately shared them with amaBhungane and, later, News24.
The publication of the first #GuptaLeaks story on 1 June 2017 was a key moment in the long media battle to hold those in power to account. The best journalists in our nation came together and mined these emails, building piece by piece a picture that filled in the detail of much of the Guptas’ looting of the state, hand in hand with powerful officials and a patronage network. Our state had been captured, almost entirely.
Journalism with a commitment to unveiling the truth is one of the pillars of democracy, and South Africa’s case shows just how deep the corruption can go – corruption that gets covered up unless brave journalists, and the still uncorrupted institutions of the state, bring it into the light of day. The report on State Capture by the then public protector, Thuli Madonsela, was filled with references to work done by investigative journalists such as amaBhungane. Her report led to the Zondo Commission now unpacking the corruption first sniffed out by journalists.
Without such work, one can imagine a South Africa in which Jacob Zuma is not in prison. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma is president. There is no Commission of Inquiry into State Capture. The Guptas are living large in Saxonwold, continuing to plunder what’s left of the state coffers. State security is used against civil society. The humanitarian crisis that unfolded as the result of last week’s unrest is our nation’s norm.
It’s difficult to calculate or even fathom the cost of State Capture. Some estimates say it cut at least 4% of GDP growth since 2015 – that’s R280-billion per year. The match to this particular poverty tinderbox? Our current level of youth unemployment: 70%.
For anyone who has asked over the past week, “What are we going to do?”, who has tried to regulate emotions as they oscillate between anger and despondency, for everyone who has felt helpless, our suggestion: employ someone, contribute to someone’s education and support the media. The only reason Daily Maverick still exists is because of the support of a handful of readers who have become members, and the few businesses brave enough to advertise with us.
Corporates all over this country swing their big bank balances around, caring more about the bottom line than the poverty line. Sadly, the big bank balance doesn’t translate into any show of corporate courage. So many of these businesses that we have approached have declined to support Daily Maverick through advertising because we’re “too political”. Our response? Imagine if we weren’t.
To the big business big-wigs: Your continued operation was made possible by the media. You would be wise to remember that.
Stop hiding behind the excuse that it’s too political. In South Africa, everything is political, all the time. It’s time to show that your commitment to South Africa is as big as your bank balance. Buy an ad in DM168, donate to your investigative unit of choice, become a member of Maverick Insider.
At this stage, there is only one side to take. One would expect by now everyone would understand, but let me spell it out for you: by not supporting the media, you are not supporting your own future. DM168
This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper which is available for free to Pick n Pay Smart Shoppers at these Pick n Pay stores until 24 July 2021. From 31 July 2021, DM168 will be available for R25 at Pick n Pay, Exclusive Books and airport bookstores.