Defend Truth


Mr President, we need to hear from you, not more politics while the country burns


Glenda Daniels is associate professor of media studies, Wits University and is Sanef’s Gauteng convenor. These views are her own.

‘We only ever hear what we are already habituated to hearing. When something else is being said, the rule of the speech game makes us censor it… What we have not already learnt to hear we do not hear.’ — Jacques Lacan (Tokyo Discourse, 1971).

Imagine a world where your president spoke up to the nation’s people at press conferences. But who am I, who are journalists, who are academics, who are South Africans in the street to ask questions of a president? 

Imagine how much less speculation there would be about our infamous blackouts, happening every couple of hours. Johannesburg is supposed to be the economic hub of the country but there are blackouts, broken water pipes and potholes everywhere. Are you serious about implementation?

This column is not about rolling blackouts, euphemistically called load shedding. It’s about the frustration the media have with you not giving press conferences, which every other democratic president worth the title gives – as a duty. I noticed that, after your Cabinet reshuffle announcement you brushed off a TV station with a bashful smile and shuffled out of sight. 

Yet, if you gave press conferences, you would have had the opportunity to explain your Phala Phala tax declaration issue. And shed some light on your motives and rationales for bemusing decisions. 

Quote: The ANC’s pattern is to vilify, blame and victimise the messenger.

Why an electricity minister? Are the already designated ministers, Gwede Mantashe and Pravin Gordhan, not doing their jobs? Will Mantashe or Gordhan tell Dr Kgosientsho “Sputla” Ramokgopa what to do, or will Ramokgopa tell Mantashe and Gordhan and the incoming Eskom CEO what to do? More politics and more politics while the country burns. Who will ultimately rule to solve the energy calamity?

Didn’t you say the bloated Cabinet would be cut, in one of your many speeches? You need to give press conferences so that these questions can be answered to end speculation, which goes on everywhere – in academia, civil society, media circles, social media, taxis, hairdressers and supermarket queues.

Read more in Daily Maverick:Ramaphosa’s Farmgate scandal – a timeline of what we know (and don’t know) so far

How come you didn’t send any message of support to former Eskom CEO André de Ruyter after he was poisoned? A press conference after the famous De Ruyter TV interview, where apparently “nothing new” was said, would have been useful. 

If he said nothing new, then why the victimisation of him? 

No press conference after his resignation, yet the energy crisis is the biggest issue in the country after the comrades bled Eskom dry. This is the biggest contributor to the near-­collapse of the economy, with unemployment growing and poverty glaring. 

Your ANC seems to live in a parallel universe of blue lights, generators, drivers and paying a few hundred in rent.

The ANC’s pattern is to vilify, blame and victimise the messenger. Those who follow politics and know the ANC’s “democratic centralism” policy, Stalinist vibe and history are already aware that this has always been its modus operandi. 

It started before the party took power and continued into the first corruption saga – the Arms Deal. Toe the line, cover up, close ranks, throw the whistle-blowers out. No tenders for you.

Civil society organisations are alarmed that you haven’t appointed an SABC board. Word on the street grows that the ANC is lining up to get its people on the board in time for some good coverage before the 2024 election. A press conference would have helped clear up this widespread speculation. 

Surely you could have taken questions from the media after the Cabinet reshuffle – which we waited for from 7pm, to 7.30pm, to 8pm, to 8.30pm, and you spoke for 15 minutes. A missed opportunity. 

All this advice comes from a place of deep frustration, and love for South Africa, which is being run into the ground by corruption because the comrades need to eat a little. 

If the ruling party asks me for the evidence of corruption, I’m going to feel like laughing and crying at the same time, just like I felt when I heard the ANC accusing De Ruyter of not reporting what he knew about corruption and not producing the evidence. 

Read more in Daily Maverick:Zondo, an extinction-level event for the ANC? Not an impossible prospect

Were all of you in your party not aware of the Zondo Commission (and the media’s investigative reporting in the 20 years before) and did you not hear, listen, see and indeed give evidence yourselves? 

I don’t believe ANC leaders are feeling and seeing the unemployment, poverty, blackouts, potholes and broken water pipes. I think they may be seeing massive RDP developments everywhere, with everyone thriving. They can’t hear; they are censoring themselves. What they haven’t already learnt to hear, they don’t hear. Sad. DM168

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Graeme de Villiers says:

    Very sobering Glenda, thank you

  • Tracy Smith says:

    The ANC is bloated from overeating, it’s time the citizens get a turn to eat.

  • Jon Quirk says:

    The parallels between Zimbabwe and South Africa are extraordinary; they once placed ZANU-PF on an untouchable plinth, as we here in South Africa did with the ANC.

    Both parties then became aloof, untouchable, uncommunicative, corrupt to the core and solely existing to enforce their absolute right to power by brute force.

    Both pretend to be democratic, but neither has a clue as to what this really means and how they should act, as servants of the people, preferring rule by decree from some, distant, far from the interogative press, in some deep, luxury bunker.

    Both are a disgrace to Africa, and have most appallingly let down most their grass-roots supporters as they have destroyed the economy and sacrificed jobs and the economy.

  • Eulalie Spamer says:

    Glenda, be reasonable. If you were Ramaphosa, head of state and leader of the ANC it would be an act of insanity to expose yourself to a roomful of intelligent, well-informed professionals and take questions from them. Crazy idea!

    • Kanu Sukha says:

      He even thought he could BS Zondo with his so-called ‘charm’ offensive (maybe it was ‘defensive’?) trying to convince the learned judge that cadre deployment was ‘constitutional’ ! It is remarkable how he sunk to a new low (or is it arrogance?) during the ‘inquiry’ … but not if you take into account that he at least has a formal ‘legal’ background I guess. How precipitous the decline from the ethical highs of the Madiba era to the slag heaps of the current ANC. Coming from one who was co-author of our new constitution, and now shows displays mostly contempt for it . But then, he is surrounded by ‘cadres’ who are utterly desperate to ‘use’ him for their own survival from total ignominy.

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