By: Carl Niehaus
One of the most basic characteristics of effective propaganda is to hide the true intentions of what those who advance it want to achieve. Effective propaganda plugs into the most basic of human emotions, tapping from the broad spectrum of emotions swinging between
the two extremes of love and hate.
With hate, for purposes of propaganda, being the strongest emotion to tap into.
It is a quirk of human nature that we ‘love to hate’ … It is a well-known fact, understood by any effective propagandist, that bad news travels much faster, and attracts more attention than good news.
Such is human nature, and it is also much easier to destroy someone’s good name, than to build and maintain a good reputation. The latter can be lost at any time throughout a person’s adult life, and it usually takes only one negative incident to leave a permanent dent, or to totally destroy it.
Once someone has lost his/her good name it is almost impossible to regain it. These, not so flattering, characteristics of human nature have evolved into a potent poisonous mix in our South African context. The consequences of decades, actually centuries, of racism and apartheid abuse and dehumanization, combined with the scuppered dreams of millions of black South Africans who had high hopes for a better life, turned us into a deeply cynical bunch who nurse our grudges, and do not forgive easily.
This is strange, and indeed tragic, for a society that likes to use the word ‘ubuntu’, with so much abandon, and still wants to project to foreigners/strangers the image (more like a distant mirage) of us being a caring and humane society – which we often are not. Or no longer is, even though there are historical examples of us once having been such, in a past long gone … As a consequence there is a huge credibility and emotional gap (actually more like a chasm) between the ‘ubuntu’ image that we still try to project about ourselves,
and the bitter, unforgiving, and cut-throat society that we in reality have become.
This characterizes our South African psyche. It is almost schizophrenic, and a destructive societal tension that we all experience. What I have described gets amplified by South Africa being one of the most unequal societies in the world. Despite twenty five years of universal franchise, and non-racial democracy, inequality has grown rapidly and the gap between the rich ‘have’s’, and the
poor ‘have not’s’ is widening frighteningly fast.
The poisonous legacy of apartheid means
that racial identity and poverty overlaps and strengthens all the societal negatives that come with it. In short: the vast majority of black (especially African) South Africans are poor, while most whites are middle-class, and also dominate the numerically small tip of super-rich at the top of the proverbial pyramid.
The White Monopoly Capitalists (WMC) who still control our economy do not suffer from delusions about this nature of our society. They understand it very well, and that understanding provides them with an almost devilish, devious, advantage about how to remain in control through undermining and dividing any potential formations that can challenge their hegemony.
What is always foremost in the minds of White Monopoly Capitalists is how to hide their absolute control over our economy, and especially to cover up how that control
perpetuates the subjugation and exploitation of the majority of black (mainly African) poor.
The best way to do this is to create scape-goats for the perpetual deferring of the dream of black economic empowerment among the leaders of the black majority, and to blame and demonize them in the eyes of their people, as being responsible for their continuing suffering. In order to do this they deftly use the inferiority complexes that centuries of colonialism and colonial missionary education have ingrained in the minds of the colonized. Sadly black South Africans seem far more ready to swallow the shallow narrative of ‘black incompetence’, as the reason for their continuing pain and exploitation,
rather than any in-depth analysis of the structural inequalities that are perpetuated by class and race overlapping and bolstering each other up, and deftly manipulated to do so by the mainly white owners of the means of production.
One of the more prominent examples of how this plays out in reality, is what the
mainstream WMC media had done over years to comrade Bathabile Dlamini. The fact that comrade Bathabile is a woman leader in a patriarchal society, was deftly combined by her imperfect command of the English language, which is not surprising considering that English is her third language (similar to what they did to former President Jacob Zuma, and several other black leaders), and thus to feed on the societal prejudice that women are less competent than men, and black people less competent than whites. It is deeply disturbing that it is often those black South Africans, who consider themselves an
educated black elite, who project such hypocritical prejudices – even more so than some whites.
This was deftly, but deviously, combined with comrade Bathabile’s sometimes slurred speech, due to the fact that she suffers from epilepsy and constantly had too contend with the side-effects of the medicine she takes to control the condition. All of this was viciously turned by the WMC mainstream media into the lie of her being an ‘incompetent black woman drunkard’. While such malicious manipulation of the facts, and ruthless character assassination, is deeply disconcerting in itself, it is even more disturbing how readily many black South Africans were (and still are) prepared to uncritically swallow this one-dimensional almost cartoon-like dehumanization of her and other black leaders, that WMC dislikes and fears enough, to turn them into targets for destruction through their Stratcom projects.
Having moulded that deliberate fake image of intoxicated incompetence of comrade
Bathabile, it was a no-brainer for the WMC media to combine it with one of the greatest propaganda tools that the white Western-European world, through institutions of their creation and power, such as the World Bank and the international Monetary Fund (IMF) have – namely the narrative of corruption, and to be more specific of corrupt black men and
women leaders in poor developing nations. Any black leader who has the courage to
challenge capitalism, and these institutions that are the enforcers of the system, gets
almost instantaneously tainted with the tar-brush of corruption.
This was done to the leaders of the great people’s socialist movement in Brazil, with
former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva jailed on dubious charges of corruption, and his successor Dilma Rousseff for similarly dubious allegations impeached. In the case of comrade Bathabile unsubstantiated allegations of corruption were reported in the mainstream media without any restraint or qualification, and in the general public mind she was presented as ‘corrupt’, as if she was actually charged and found guilty in a court of
Adverse court rulings about managerial problems in the Department of Social
Development – not matters of corruption or fraud – were reported in such an un-nuanced and biased manner that the public perception that was created is actually no different than of someone who had been found guilty and sentenced for corruption. This is not dissimilar to what had been done to former President Jacob Zuma, who is regularly in the mainstream media called corrupt and a ‘thief’, despite never having been found guilty of any such. In both instances these leaders are relentlessly targeted, and their reputations
tarnished, ultimately because of their expressed opposition to the continuing control of White Monopoly Capital over the South African economy.
In fact, comrade Bathabile became a target because of her being seen as a protégé of
former President Jacob Zuma. She was identified as ‘dangerous’ to WMC, and their
continued control of the South African economy, primarily because of her position as President of the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL), and the influence (or potential
influence) that her numerically strong women constituency has (or can have) on the political future of South Africa. This potential was demonstrated, although not entirely realized, when the candidate that the ANCWL supported for the ANC Presidency, comrade Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, came within a hairs-breath of winning the contest, on an ticket for Radical Economic Transformation (RET).
Although the harsh and contradictory nature of South African society was explained above, in the context of the manner in which it gets manipulated by the WMC mainstream media, the kangaroo-court style unforgiving treatment that comrade Bathabile Dlamini continues
to be subjected too is a disgrace, and will for a long time remain as a historical blemish reflecting a sorry lack of solidarity among black (African) South Africans.
Sadly, the manner in which the White Masters of our economy manipulate and divide black poor people, in order to remain in control, seems to be hidden from the conscience of far too many black South Africans. By being gullible to the propaganda, and Stratcom operations of the mainstream WMC media, they remain participants in their own continuing exploitation and subjugation.
It is evident that the very same WMC media has a vested interest in stoking on the fires of division within the ANC. They have largely replaced former President Jacob Zuma as the boogey man, with the Secretary General of the ANC, comrade Ace Magashule. The intention is to generate a narrative, at every cost, of comrade Magashule and President
Ramaphosa being constantly at loggerheads with each other. This narrative of two factions within the ANC fighting it out with each other to the ‘bitter end’ is pushed relentlessly.
Most recently this was seen again when the process of the appointment of Chairs of Committees in parliament was proceeding smoothly through the appropriate structures of the ANC, and yet the Sunday Times and other mainstream media instead decided to push a fake narrative that there was factional conflict, and even created the impression of a
personalized stand-off between President Ramaphosa and comrade Magashule.
When the Chairs of Committees were finally announced the lie was exposed, but because these WMC mouthpieces and their masters were not happy with the senior ANC comrades who were nominated as chairs, they advanced a malicious follow-up narrative to the effect
that one faction in the ANC had won out over the other.
Evidently these journalists are no longer functioning as journalists, reporting objectively about the actual unfolding of events, but instead they have become active political participants with the intention to influence the outcomes of political dynamics and events. They have vested interests to advance/push specific political outcomes with the intention to protect, defend and promote the material interests of their WMC owners.
It is imperative for members of the ANC not to allow themselves to be divided, and played off against each other.Unfortunately there are some ANC members who have become comprador capitalists, and now stand in the service of White Monopoly Capital. They have become active participants in this divide-and-rule game of White Monopoly Capital, and even assist with generating the fake reports about ‘factions’, and thus lit and fuel the fires of division.
The only way that the ANC can put a stop to this, is if at the grass-roots level of branches the members of the ANC become more politically aware and active, to the point that they realize how the mainstream media is trying to manipulate them. It is ultimately only at branch level, through politically informed and courageous rank-and-file members who see things for what they are and speak out, that the vicious cycle of oppression – that results from political manipulation through fake news and Stratcom propaganda operations – can
We in the ANC are fond of speaking about ourselves as the Leaders of Society, but
ultimately the litmus test of whether, and how, such leadership to society is provided will depend on the extent that we can wake up our fellow South Africans to realize how they are being hoodwinked, and manipulated by the media, to hate and dehumanize people who have sacrificed their lives in the struggle for the liberation and empowerment of the majority of poor and downtrodden South Africans.
Jacob Zuma, Bathabile Dlamini, Ace Magashule, Faith Muthambi, and I dare say with humility even myself, as well as many other comrades, do not deserve what is being done by sinister WMC forces that have never sacrificed a single hour in their well-healed, comfortable lives, for the liberation of the majority of poor South Africans.
The time has truly arrived for grass-roots ANC members to speak out, and to stand up in defense against such injustice. At this juncture in our history such courage to speak truth to power will be one of the most significant courageous and liberation-minded steps in our long walk to freedom, and will break through the layers of deceit that our society has become so dangerously burdened under.
*Carl Niehaus is an ANC veteran. He is a member of the NEC of MKMVA, as well as National
Spokesperson of MKMVA.