Mboweni: M&G’s blatant attempt to divide ANC leadership

This is an unmandated response to the Mail & Guardian article, "Zuma coterie has Gwede in its sights (March 22)". The standard of journalism displayed is, quite simply, appalling. That this piece made it past your editorial ­filters is an indictment of the M&G as a paper willing to flout editorial standards in service of sensationalism.  

First, the article in question is full of quotations from faceless and nameless sources. These are presented to the reader variously as "senior ANC leaders", an "NEC member", "a group of ANC leaders", and so on. If ever there was a case of shoddy journalism, this type of reporting without named sources is it.

Second, I note the brazenness with which this is done. It is a blatant attempt to divide the national executive committee (NEC) at a time when there is total commitment from this leadership corps to unite the ANC. For, I must ask, where do you get this notion of "a powerful bloc within the national executive committee that is close to Zuma"?  At best, this is a lazy regurgitation of a view that is out of sync with the current reality. At worst, this is a deliberate ploy to foment division.

Let me deal with the facts to support my position. First, I am a member of the NEC of the ANC. I was present at its meeting on March 17 2013, where the national working committee (NWC) report on the ANC Youth League was presented and discussed. It was not a Gwede Mantashe report, as you suggest, but an NWC report to the NEC. This means that all members of the NWC were responsible for the report, not the secretary general alone. Why misinform your readership?

Second, you mention people who have "tipped" Mantashe to make himself available for a deputy president position. The ANC has just emerged from a conference in December last year, hello, with a newly elected NEC. The next national conference of the ANC is in 2017. This NEC has hardly been five months in office and you are already foretelling its next incarnation? Goodness me!

Sadly, what you attempt to portray as an obsession with leadership positions is less an ANC concern and more a fixation of lazy journalists on a mission to dumb down society.

If you would indeed like us to believe in the realness of your predictive powers four years in advance, then please bolster your credibility with actual sources.

Uncritical machine
Let me explain exactly what happened on that day. The secretary general presented a report by the NWC to the NEC, titled: Rebuilding the African National Congress Youth League as per the 53rd National Conference Resolutions. The report presented detailed facts and analysis about where the youth league is today. Towards the end of the report (point 17 to be exact), the report stated: "In this regard, we can look at the following options: a) Disbanding the NEC of the ANC Youth League and putting together a task team; b) Convening an early conference; c) Engaging the current NEC [of the youth league] and work[ing] with them until the national conference."

The preferred option of the NWC was the last one, but it was open to any of the three options. NEC members then debated these options at length.

It became clear during the discussion that the first option was preferred. It had nothing to do with Zuma's henchmen M&G or women M&G versus Mantashe. This is how things are done in the NEC. There was no need for Mantashe to defend anything, because the NWC put three options before the NEC, meaning it would be comfortable with any of them. Your nameless sources may have forgotten to share these important facts with you.

But here's the thing: I have observed over the past few years how this publication has positioned itself against the ANC. Some of you seem to have forgotten why this publication was started and how it survived during the struggle. This is not your M&G alone. It is also our M&G, we who bear the blanket status of corrupt, immoral megalomaniacs by virtue of our political affiliation.

We stood in the cold and unforgiving weather in England in the 1980s demonstrating in solidarity with the Weekly Mail, as it was then. We mobilised solidarity funds for it. For the M&G then to degenerate into an uncritical machine dedicated to opposing the ANC at all costs is not acceptable.

Sure, you should investigate, inform and criticise.

I support wholeheartedly your efforts to expose shenanigans, crooked people in the movement and society. But recall also what we struggled for: not so that you could celebrate the ANC, but so that you could serve society in terms of the ethical standards that guide your profession. Instead, the editorial framework you have adopted gives credibility to those who are calling for a media appeals tribunal.

Clean up your act, please, in defence of freedom of the media. We dare not lose this freedom!

Tito Mboweni is a member of the ANC NEC

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