/ 16 April 2018

Thandeka Gqubule hits back at Stratcom allegations

In writing: Thandeka Gqubule will launch her biography
'I will do whatever is necessary so that those people who fight for a vulnerable truth in the face of populism have got money to fund their fights,' said Thandeka Gqubule. (Oupa Nkosi/M&G)

Journalist Thandeka Gqubule has come out guns blazing to clear her name following the recent uproar over her alleged involvement in an apartheid covert operation aimed at discrediting Winnie-Madikizela-Mandela’s name and image.

In a video clip recently posted by the Huffington Post from an interview with Madikizela-Mandela, the struggle icon listed several journalists that had been critical of her, saying they were doing the work of the apartheid state’s Stratcom (strategic communications), which launched media smear campaigns against her.

Madikizela-Mandela explained how she became “disillusioned with the media” and reporters who specialised in writing “very negative stories” about her and the ANC. She named journalists Thandeka Gqubule, Nomavenda Mathiane and Anton Harber – who worked at the Weekly Mail which is now the Mail & Guardian.

In an interview with the SABC, Gqubule said: “We exposed Stratcom … and we did this country a favour. I don’t know where this mischievous narrative that we are Stratcom comes from.”

Gqubule went on to respond to the question of why Madikizela-Mandela would name her by saying: “She [Mam Winnie] didn’t want to disband the [Mandela] football club and we wrote stories that were not flattering of the club and its activities. So that would obviously get her to believe that we were against her. But we were not.”

The Huffington Post video was subsequently taken down from the site, with its publishers citing editorial oversight as neither Gqubule nor Harber’s comments were included in the video.

Gqubule lashed out at the posting of the video saying: “As the Huffington Post admits, that was completely against every prescript of journalism and even against the press code to which they subscribe.

“The damage done, or rather the damage they attempted to do which I’m now trying to undo has been humongous. It’s difficult to even quantify.”

“Nothing can justify what has happened to Anton Harber, Nomathiyane Mavenda and myself.”

Gqubule says she will be approaching the court to seek “pristine, factual information that will lay these ghosts of stratcom to rest once and for all”.

Over the weekend, journalist Max du Preez, who has been included on a supposed list of Stratcom agents, told 702 that he and the then Weekly Mail actively worked to uncover and expose the apartheid agency. The alleged list, claimed by the Economic Freedom Fighters, has not yet been released.

On Friday, the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) released a statement warning against unsubstantiated allegations against journalists following the passing of Madikizela-Mandela.

“Given this contest of lies and propaganda, we believe that it’s critical that concrete evidence is brought forward to substantiate the claims that specific journalists supported the apartheid security establishment,” said Sanef.

The Economic Freedom Fighters have called for journalists involved with Stratcom to come forward and ask for forgiveness. If the 40 journalists do not do this and remain silent, the political party has threatened to release their names.

Watch the full interview here:

[AS SEEN ON #DStv403] @ThulasSims speaks to journalist Thandeka Gqubule about claims that she was involved in the covert operation, #Stratcom, aimed at portraying #WinnieMandela negatively. Find #eNCA on YouTube https://t.co/r4NgMvMYd9

— eNCA (@eNCA) April 16, 2018