In an election year, perception and messaging are crucial for political parties seeking to win the hearts and minds of the electorate. Controlling perceptions and messaging falls to senior party leaders, but communicators — or, for the ANC, its “information and publicity department” — also need to be on top of their game.
Not so for the confused bunch over at Luthuli House. In the past two weeks, they have retracted a statement, retracted the retraction then retracted the initial non-retraction.
It issued an outrageous statement after the Sunday Times and City Press reported on the contents of a book by journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture, calling it “fake news”.
After that, a decision was taken at a special national executive committee meeting that the ANC secretary general should deal with the allegations in the book as an individual and not use the party as a shield. For this reason the statement about the book issued in the name of the ANC should have been retracted. Spokesperson Dakota Legoete then flip-flopped a number of times on whether it would be recalled.
This week the public was tortured with further contradictory and confusing messages from Luthuli House. Legoete confirmed to Business Day that the ANC has decided not to cross-examine Bosasa whistle-blower Angelo Agrizzi at the Zondo inquiry into state capture about his disclosure of R12-million in payments to the party’s top six officials between 2004 and 2006.
The very next day, Legoete issued a statement noting the “eclectic” reports about the matter and stated that, in fact, the ANC will cross-examine Agrizzi.
To make matters worse, the more professional communicators at Luthuli House have been sidelined or shifted to work with the party’s election head, Fikile Mbalula.
The ANC’s communicators are either extremely confused and out of their depth or simply cannot keep up with their own spin — or worse, their lies.