AFRICAN FOCUS By Tafataona P. Mahoso
With the help of Euro-American TV channels, the white racist media of South Africa had for several years so criminalised, stigmatised and demonised African National Congress president (and now SA State President) Jacob Zuma that they now have to swallow their own words. A look at just the Mail & Guardian for April 17 and April 24 2009 respectively helps to demonstrate the problem. In the April 17 issue, the ANC president was presented as a threat to "freedom" and a threat to the Constitution of South Africa. The Zapiro cartoons of recent South African history, from Nelson Mandela in 1994 to Jacob Zuma in 2009, in the same issue of April 17, helped to sum up the white racist media’s caricature of South Africa. The first panel shows former South African president Nelson Mandela as a towering, inimitable political and moral giant. The second panel shows former South African president Thabo Mbeki as a political and moral midget who could hardly walk in Mandela’s big shoes. The third panel shows Mbeki in his second term in 2004. Here Mbeki has so deteriorated morally and politically that he now almost sinks completely into just one of Mandela’s big shoes. In the final panel Jacob Zuma comes in, in 2009, as a thug who grabs one of Mandela’s big shoes and pounds a fallen Thabo Mbeki with it. The message is as blunt as it is presumptuous: Jacob Zuma is not only the worst candidate for president of the ANC and of South Africa; he is not even ANC. He has taken over the ANC presidency, but he is alien to the ANC, as far as Zapiro, the Mail & Guardian and the rest of the white-dominated media are concerned. But the ANC swept to victory with 65,9 percent of the popular vote, making a Zuma presidency a fact. So, how did the same media respond to the ANC victory? They pretended that they were now back to business as usual, that nothing had really happened. The Mail & Guardian for April 24 2009 simply pretended to be neutral on its cover page by reverting to innocuous reports on the election and a possible Zuma cabinet. The only reminder that this paper and many other media outlets had been on a warpath against Zuma just days before was an opinion piece from Friends of Zuma website. But the piece was tucked away on Page 21. It was entitled "From Accused Number 1 to Mr President: After seven years of slander, will the media be fair in covering the Zuma administration?" The author of the piece, Ranjeni Munusamy, made several important observations. One was that the mass media in SA had not yet produced a factual profile or portrait of President Zuma for their readers. Such a profile would be regarded as a routine duty in most normal countries. The second critical point she made was that the mass media in SA had destroyed their own argument for media self-regulation because they never disciplined their own members who openly violated and abused media freedom. Munusamy concluded: "Here we have been bludgeoned for years with a portrayal of Zuma as a seedy, gun-toting character with a ‘shower’ on his head and an uncouth mob as his supporters." Yet 65,9 percent of voters in South Africa voted for this man and his party! How then can the same media claim that they respect, let alone promote and defend, democracy? Zimbabweans take a keen interest in attacks by the white-dominated Press on African leaders and African liberation movements. These attacks have a long history here. On June 12 2007, the white apartheid newspaper, The Citizen of South Africa, published a personal attack of President Robert Mugabe entitled "Bob snubs the clergy", which was authored anonymously but attributed to the CIA-funded Institute for War and Peace. On June 20 2007, neo-Rhodesian interests in the Sadc region released a bogus report in the name of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum entitled "Injury in addition to insult" and calling for putting African leaders and the African land reclamation movement of Zimbabwe on trial for abusing the human rights of white settlers in the process of taking back stolen African land. Both documents were motivated by two white racist agendas: First to degrade and destroy the Pan-African hero stature of President Robert Mugabe in order to stop landless Africans in South Africa and Namibia from following Zimbabwe’s example; second, to mobilise British, North American, Australian and white South African funding for a programme to reverse the Zimbabwean land reform programmes under the guise of defending human rights. Yet African land reclamation is fundamental to national reconstruction and national healing. John Sprack in the International Defence and Aid Fund booklet Rhodesia: the Sixth Province of South Africa in 1976 demonstrated how the racist land tenures of South Africa and Rhodesia were central to the crime of apartheid: "The foundation of white supremacy in both Rhodesia and South Africa lies in the area of land policy, and in the labour policy which complements this. The two are interrelated and their development has followed a similar pattern in both countries. South Africa’s experience, because it both pre-dated similar processes in Rhodesia and provided several variations of a native policy" . . . furnished the main guidelines in the shaping of Rhodesian policy on land and labour . . . In both countries the (racist) allocation of land served a dual exploitive purpose. The white settlers’ first requirement was land for cultivation (and mineral speculation), their second labour to enable them to do this . . . The white demand for both land and labour was served by a policy of expropriation of land from the African peasantry." The United Nations Human Rights Commission was supposed to compile lists of organisations, institutions and individuals to be prosecuted for the crime of apartheid. As Professor Kader Asmal pointed in his legal paper on Namibia in September 1984, the prosecutions were supposed to lead to judgments for reparations and other forms of compensation to be paid to victims of apartheid throughout Southern Africa. Where member states of the UN or representatives of the victims could not agree on the reparations, the International Court of Justice was supposed to arbitrate. The former Rhodesian and former apartheid interests once invited by Archbishop Pius Ncube’s attacks on Zimbabwe aimed to turn up-side down the 1973 UN Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Between the two documents of June 12 and 20 2007, it was the first which clearly linked white South African interests to Archbishop Ncube and his hateful and highly personalised attacks on President Robert Mugabe. This hateful campaign moved to South Africa because the Pastoral Letter by the Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference on the Current Crisis of Our Country (also called God Hears the Cry of the Oppressed) had been rejected by the majority of Zimbabwean Catholics who variously organised their expression of outrage against it. Zimbabweans, like the Friends of Zuma in South Africa, were concerned about many aspects of the attacks on their President. First, the basis of the attack on President Robert Mugabe as a person was that he was not entitled to differ with Archbishop Ncube, he should not differ with the archbishop, and he was not entitled to his own conscience and mind — all because early in his life "the church adopted Mugabe as their beloved son; fed him; and gave him an education that he would never have dreamed of, including a scholarship to study at Fort Hare University". Apart from the sordid attacks on the President’s parents as human beings in the anonymous article, this passage was the very heart of what was wrong with some of the leaders of the ZCBC in general and Archbishop Ncube in particular. The passage suggested that when the Catholic Church feeds, clothes, and educates needy children it sees them as being mortgaged and enslaved heart, intellect, conscience, soul and body and as being condemned forever to always agree with whomsoever happens to lead the Catholic Church at whatever level and on whatever subject. Otherwise, what would be the purpose and meaning of such an attack based on the President’s childhood as a Catholic? In the second place, when the President of Zimbabwe criticised Archbishop Ncube as an ordained minister of the church whose views and activities degraded and contradicted his call, there was nothing clandestine or anonymous about Cde Mugabe’s criticism. But the South African writers chose to remain anonymous. Third, the chosen channel for communicating the sordid and clandestine message was profound: One of the white racist media houses set up at the depth of apartheid in the 1970s as a special project of the apartheid regime under John Vorster and his junior Minister of Information Cornelius P. Mulder: The Citizen was indeed a soul-mate of Archbishop Ncube in his deranged mission to restore human rights in Zimbabwe by re-importing apartheid hatred from unreconstructed white institutions of South Africa. In the chapter called The Propaganda War in the book called (White) South Africa at War, author Richard Leonard lists The Citizen as a premier apartheid project under the sub-heading (Apartheid) Information Department Projects in South Africa, which projects were crafted with the assistance of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and the South African Bureau of State Security as the "bankers". The Citizen was project number one out of more than 30 internal projects of the apartheid regime started in 1976. Altogether there were more than 160 external and internal projects. According to Leonard: "The sponsorship of The Citizen, a daily newspaper, was the largest single secret project undertaken by the (Apartheid) Information Department. It cost the government US$36,8 million between 1976 and 1978. It was an internal project by which the (white) Nationalist government created its own mouthpiece in South Africa to counter the critical voices of the English language Press. The Apartheid roots of The Citizen and other white-dominated papers are not just an academic detail in arcane history. They are of contemporary relevance if we ask: How did The Citizen respond to the end of official apartheid in South Africa in the 1990s? That response serves to explain also why The Citizen would accept, for publication without question, a hateful and anonymous piece of trash claiming to represent Zimbabwe’s Day Catholics. In its Interim Report on the Inquiry into Racism in the (South African) Media, the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) tells us that The Citizen was naturally one of the white South African institutions which took the end of official Apartheid very badly. Now, Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe was not only a major contributor to ending Apartheid in South Africa and Namibia. Zimbabwe under President Mugabe went further to show, through the Third Chimurenga, how Apartheid on the land is supposed to be ended. So, The Citizen’s alliance with Archbishop Ncube cannot be a surprise, given the archbishop’s links to US, British, Rhodesian, and neo-Apartheid interests. The SAHRC reported that in 1999 The Citizen responded to the first African-led provincial government for Gauteng Province (where Johannesburg is) by going on a campaign of character assassination and criminalisation of the African leadership.