/ 19 February 2021

Editorial: Where is the accountability?

Editorial: On Media Transparency

Same shit. Different day/week/month/year. 

Our disgraced, disgraceful, former president is not going to testify before the state capture commission. The secretary general of our ruling party is not willingly going to step down. And we won’t use the lies published by a once-respected journalist as an opportunity to tackle the racism, sexism and unfair treatment that bedevils our industry. 

We are once again reminded that the more dishonest you are and the more you abuse your privilege, the more the system will go out of its way to treat you as more equal than others.

For many journalists, reporting on the dishonesty of Jacob Zuma has spanned much of their careers. It is that endless, exhausting story that should have ended in jail time so many years ago. For the public, for a country exhausted by his assault on decency and the rule of law, it is a nasty cyst that continues to pain us.  

Yet our ruling party, the one that claimed victory over apartheid as its own achievement and went on to power, continues to treat him as special. 

The former president is more than a common criminal. He is now spitting on the constitution. This is the hopeful document that set South Africa apart: the codification of equal rights, for people to marry whomever they want and for access to things such as clean water to be guaranteed for all.

At its core is the idea of equality and the balancing of rights so one person cannot abuse another. 

By refusing to act, the ANC is sending us all a powerful message about how little it thinks of those who aren’t party members. 

Instead of saying Zuma has to face consequences, its members call him and visit him, begging him to account to a country he tore to pieces. Everything is on his terms. 

Ace Magashule is similarly tiptoed around, with the president and members of the party’s highest decision-making body refusing to force him to step aside. 

The rest of us can but watch and hope due process reinforces the importance of our law. 

Consequences are few and far between. We had a reminder of that this week in the media. We were reminded of the dual standards of our own profession. When the Daily Maverick published Jacques Pauw’s lies, it spoke to the constant advantages that accrue with age and white skin. People have applauded his admission of guilt. But we know the consequences would have been different for a person who looked different. Ours is still a racist and sexist industry. 

We must do better. Otherwise, these editorials will ring hollow, riddled with our own hypocrisies.