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Sewer journalism pursuing a regime change agenda

By Vuso Shabalala, 02 February 2016

One of the main media stories to emerge from the bi-annual Lekgotla of the National Executive Committee of the African National Congress held on 24 – 27 January 2016 has been about the influence of the Gupta family on the behaviour of individual ANC leaders and the decisions of government. The narrative is that this revolves around the closeness of the family to President Jacob Zuma.

One would be pardoned to think that newspaper editors compete about who will publish the juiciest Zuma story.

How much is fact about reports on the influence of the Guptas on President Zuma and other ANC leaders; and how much is fiction, rumour and malicious innuendo?

The column by Justice Malala “Who’s running this country?” in The Times (01 February 2016) also goes to great lengths to spread the gossip.

A couple of things that are rumour, fiction and malicious reports about the influence of the Guptas are its basis and reach. What do the Guptas have to give that outweigh what everybody else can give? The media reports are devoid of facts.

What is the extent of the economic clout of the Guptas in the economy? It can be no more than a speck on the radar.

That a handful of members of Zuma’s family have or may have business connections with the Guptas is fact. The value of their assets from such relationship is at best fanciful. Such members of the Zuma family are adults with their own families and whatever wealth they may accumulate can barely impact on the extended family. We can go on in this vein.

Every day there is a media report about how some close friend or relative of President Zuma has benefited from some government largesse. Common among all such reports are innuendo, gossip, and worse.

However, enough suspicion is given with the probable intention that some end up believing at least some of the tales. This is then used to advance some agenda or other; none of which has the good of the country at the centre. But this is not the worst about the sewer reporting.

In a media study by the Glasgow University Media Group the writers make the following observations:

“…media accounts can play a central role in not only legitimising certain courses of action, but the placing of trust and credibility in particular versions of the possible directions for social policy. They can also be used to insert doubt and confusion into a debate…”

Sewer reporting displaces sober dialogue about the challenges facing the country and the alternative solutions with a narrative that says all the problems of the country will be solved simply by removing President Zuma and the ANC from Government. One can expect more of the same especially leading up to the 2016 Local Government Elections.

The regime change agenda is aimed simply at dislodging the ANC from Government without credible alternative policies to take the country forward. It serves to promote anarchy which is certainly not in the interest of the country.

• Shabalala is a political adviser to President Jacob Zuma

• This  article was published on the SowetanLIVE website: