By: Clyde Ramalaine
Abie Zaidannas from Indonesia, in his prism on what the role of the media is in a democratic society, asserts: “Media plays important roles in a democratic society and could not be separated from the democracy itself. Ideally, the media is a tool to educate the voters, giving them facts, news and balanced opinions about how the government run and managed. It is vital to have well-informed voters in a democratic society to ensure the accountable and responsible government. Well informed society should be able to make rational choices, making sure that the government works as the people want. Media also act as the watchdog for the government in a democratic society by facilitating the people to articulate their views, demands and aspiration. The media usually is a powerful way to make sure the decision makers working in line with the voters’ interests, keeping the politicians and public officials in check.”
Listening to Zaidannas and many others in this frame evoke a celebration of what media in democracy would mean. Unfortunately, media, as we experience it, falls short of the ideals espoused in its most hallowed scientific description.
The scripted narrative on Karima as portrayed by eNCA, her friends and admirers even those who trusted her to be a heroine would see her as champion against corruption on a moral arch argument. In contradiction to the aforementioned it can be argued that Karima’s flip- flopping from Jacob Zuma support had little if anything to do with the infamous Guptas or the yet to be proven ‘state capture’ but other reasons which we may only speculate on but never know. Dotted lines are also drawn in linking her flipping as that which either accidently or intently share the same with the time SACP Secretary General Blade Nzimande’s flipping. Her support for Ramaphosa cannot be understood in the authentic principle context of ideology or even morality since she like all of us know the intricate challenges Ramaphosa presents for his proverbial wet diapers immanent in business deals until Marikana, state capture at Eskom and ultimately the buying of an 2017 Elective Conference, and a litany of issues that hardly portray him as the rebirth of the ANC.
From the original toolbox of her SACP ideology she ought to have major challenges with Ramaphosa as the advanced economic hope for the future. Yet like Nzimande she as a professing Communist pretended a strange comfortability with the capitalist Ramaphosa at an ideological level. Why this comfort and what role does the personal play in this? It is therefore not possible to reduce Karima in stoic sense to be led by her SACP and ANC party associated ideological frames as the guiding light of her political choices.
We are obligated to make sense of how mainstream operates. I have long ago advanced that anyone who arrives for the first time at ORT Intl, that takes a glance at the press in printed newspapers will be forgiven for assuming the stories and headlines were written and vetted by the same editor. This brings us to the praxis of the 21st-century post-apartheid media; it often hunts its prey in a pack of wolves tendecies. It unleashes this venom and hate fuelled by the intent of annihilation of some when it viciously defends others. Ranjeni Munusamy, Qaanitah Hunter and Karima Brown led the pack of what I for lack of better words would frame as alpha she-wolves angered even embittered at a personal level with those they formerly defended and were close today. Their war daily tears into others denying them a right to exists when they are public relations experts for others like Ramaphosa and Gordhan among others. We saw this collusion between politicians and journalists in the destruction of other politicians when Adriaan Basson exposed Malema as a source of information, thus blowing his cover. Malema was compelled to remember how together with Adriaan Basson and Ranjeni Munusamy they plotted against Jacob Zuma in another time not so long ago. We saw the intimate links as portrayed by a personal photograph of journalist Ranjeni Munusamy and ANC NEC members and chairperson of Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, Derek Hanekom, in loving embrace when they share more than hate for Jacob Zuma.
When I state this here it is not remotely to exonerate Zuma or any other of the natural demons as crafted by the Media. These cannot escape scrutiny for their failures and errors, but we warrant contextualising how some in the media makes up part of him and then flipped on him citing corruption and Gupta narratives when their choices may have had nothing to with that. One may also just for context sake here reflect on another interesting journalist Ferial Haffajee, who on occasion in unsolicited fashion advised President Ramaphosa against allowing his borrowed Hugh Masekela theme of ‘Thuma Mina’ campaign theme to be hijacked as an ANC campaign. With this she insinuated ‘send me’ is now tainted because it’s in ANC space, environment and language open for populist rhetoric. This is the context of the political operatives that are in the media spaces driving a particular agenda. Needless to say this overzealousness on the part of senior and veteran journalists often blurs the lines of personal and political interest.
Karima also did not escape the labelling of working for STRATCOM when her name appeared on a list of journalists in the now infamous ‘ThumaMina WhatsApp group’. This group which includes known journalists as we all know came into existence to work for the promotion of Cyril Ramaphosa’s political agenda. It is this chameleon type of political operative Karima was that lays bare the lack of principle straddling instead the political as the guiding philosophy of her professional career.
Let us not forget how at the 103rd Celebration of the January 8 ANC Statement gathering Karima as INL group executive editor along with the then group editor of opinions and analysis Vukani Mde rocked up in their ANC regalia to the anger of fellow journalists who thought it highly inappropriate since she though not on that day was also an independent commentator Clearly this was again the conflation of the roles in which her professional career was sacrificed for her political identity and status. This saw fellow journalist Marianne Thamm producing an opinion piece “True coours shining through: Should journalists be draping themselves in party colours”>
To cite this conflation of politics and journalistic profession I a few years back wrote how eNCA, broadcasting and its analysis are horribly exposed, as paper-thin on facts, voluminous on fiction and in overkill on Zuma removal fixation. Its usual crop of analysts in particular journalist Karima Brown led the battle charge to prepare South Africa, from days before, as to how Ramaphosa will remove Zuma; no doubt SA was duly prepared. On the occasion by Friday night late its breaking news headlined ‘NEC agreed Zuma must be removed’ and ‘he can’t be the face of government in the up run to 2019. We were told the ANC NEC by a secret ballot voted unanimously that President Zuma must be removed. According to reports it was also agreed that the Top 6, in view of this NEC decision, mandated to meet with President Zuma to convey the unanimous decision of NEC. Not even the standard bi-annual Lekgotla, which all those of us as public commentators who follow SA and ANC politics should know usually follows the NEC meeting, was spared. It was accordingly twisted by lusty ENCA propaganda machinery as a meeting where the ANC will be informing its Alliance partners of its supposed decision. It was further exacerbated by the on sight (not inside) presence of its field journalist Thulas Simelane, who broadcasted the arrival of President Zuma in his cavalcade as an unusual out of the ordinary setting. ENCA told us President Zuma is coming as summoned to be told he is to resign unless he is willing to face a national assembly humiliation.
Not to be undone SABC News bulletin also succumbed to the practice of the colloquial fake news since it peddled this lie of a unanimous decision concluded by the NEC on Zuma removal as late as Sunday. They repeated a complete lie of the top six officials charged to deliver the message to President Zuma. We heard continuously how President Zuma as head of State would not deliver the SONA.
In the end, Karima Brown’s very colourful, and equally privileged ANC/ SACP leadership access though very jagged-edged and conflicting defines a political life embodied in many ways the ANC as an organisation. That embodiment details in good, bad, ugly, factual fake, dribble and drool of the ANC/SACP particularly in the Post- Polokwane 2007 context of organisational politics. There are those in the ANC/SACP who on the news of her death irreverently celebrated her demise, because of what they accuse her of as personally responsible in the conscious destruction of their names and integrity a she was batting for another faction. While she is celebrated by eNCA in an-hour-long reflection, she is equally remembered for her divisive and discursive persona that removed more than proverbial limbs less in pursuit of justice, even less in ethic of professionalism of journalism or out of morality’s dictate but because of political machinations.
It is from this bedrock she owes her emerging and existence in public spaces. It is, therefore, virtually impossible to separate Karima from the ANC, since I would contend it is the ANC/ SACP that produced her in student activism for a liberation struggle cause. The ANC/SACP equally so in adulthood and professional career sense details her personal source and meal-ticket into television stardom platforms like the biased eNCA, often flip-flopping in praising and denigrating ANC leaders directly aided by her proximity to the very ANC and SACP leadership. She operated in the political spaces often used by ANC/SACP politicians to do their dirty factional work and also at times using them to her ends where she would venture her own mind against their advice at times in a form of bitterness. That is the Karima I knew observed analysed and understood. May her soul rest in peace. She lived full and her memory will not easily be forgotten.