Monday, April 16, 2007

SA Media

Some Lessons from Sunday Newspapers
Floyd Shivambu

South African media has in the past few months been correctly blamed within South African society, particularly as it relates to the so-called succession debate in the African National Congress and Tripartite Alliance as a whole. There is a variety of media creations and constructions, which are non-existent in the real world. South African Media sought to redefine South African society through perspectives and information from mainly faceless sources, who would purportedly sneak out of formal political structures to connive with scribes for whatever reason. This was largely reflected in Sunday Newspapers, infamous for their character assassinations and elevation of imaginations to scriptural reality. Sunday Newspapers have perfectly reflected the correct Left theoretical observation that in a capitalist society, media is a non-cohesive force with a primary role to re-inscribe the ideas of the ruling class.

Noting this background, it is vital to note particularly the perspectives of Sunday Newspapers comments/editorials on the 15th of April 2007. The comments/editorials of Sunday Times, City Press and Sowetan Sunday World somewhat defied their primary role of re-inscribing the ideas of the ruling class. As a very rare practice, the Newspapers identified, questioned and deplored the South African mode of capitalist accumulation post apartheid. The Sunday Times’ Editor, Mondli Makhanya observes after his long diatribe on Danisa Baloyi:
“Elected representatives are getting involved in business, clearly in violation of the ethos that those who enter public service are supposed to espouse. Public servants ignore conflict-of-interest directives and sign deals every other day. The ruling party abuses its control of the levers of state and ensures that friendly businessmen get contracts in parastatals, government departments and municipalities. Businessmen substitute hard work with palm-greasing”.

Makhanya’s counterpart in City Press, Khatu Mamaila deplores Trevor Manuel for speaking the long overdue and obvious sentiments on Black Economic Empowerment, and correctly notes:
The first point to make is that while the emerging black bourgeoisie is used as a punching bag for all BEE criticisms, the truth is that the real beneficiaries of BEE are banks, which are predominantly white entities. A person given a stake in a company in order to get the BEE figures right is unlikely to embark on any action that may militate against the interests of his benefactors. It is not surprising to find a black person suddenly speaking on behalf of the mining giants against royalties on revenue. There is a popular myth that BEE was meant to benefit the black majority. The truth is that BEE is achieving exactly what its designers sought – co-opting the black revolutionary intelligentsia to safeguard the interests of capital. It should not be surprising that many of the beneficiaries have strong political connections with the ruling ANC. The reason every big company desperately wants to find a partner who is also a big shot in the ANC is because of what political analyst Moeletsi Mbeki describes as insurance. If, for instance, the ANC’s national executive committee is dominated by people who handsomely benefit from the windfalls of BEE, it is unlikely the same people will advance policies that will reverse their gains. Big business knew of their polecat status in the eyes of the ANC and the broad liberation movement at the rendezvous of freedom. They also knew of ideals to nationalise the commanding heights of the economy, as articulated in the Freedom Charter. They realised they needed to adapt or face extinction. They opted for adaptation. They offered the revolutionaries of yesteryear a piece of the pie, turning them into moderates who have become staunch defenders of the system. Capitalism is in safe hands. Its lily-white face has been darkened. The masses live in hope that they too will one day benefit. People like Manuel continue to keep the hope alive.

Stressing Maimala’s observations, the Sowetan Sunday World Editor says:
“Manuel says it (that BEE has benefited very few black elites) as if his statement were original, leaving the impression that a few more black cats need to become millionaires before any concrete steps will be taken to level the playing field. But BEE has done more than make a few coconuts rich, it has in fact morally bankrupted our struggle”.

These observations from Sunday Newspapers are reflective of what South African capitalist society has become. There is perhaps a need for more emphasis that the delusion that capitalism can ever restore morals, improve the poor’s living conditions and build a nation is a delusion. Capitalism in South Africa impoverished majority of the population the revolutionary struggles sought to liberate, and will for years to come, if ownership of production means is not fundamentally altered. Maybe Sunday Newspapers have a sense of what is happening, and not trapped in some planet of imaginations as I thought.

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