By Sipho Singiswa
Mainstream media houses, corporate bosses, conservative opposition parties, the Ramaphosa camp, as well as some turncoat members of civil society and Chapter 9 institutions, clamoured to manufacture and manipulate public fear and hysteria in the two week run up to the EFF’s planned national shutdown on the 20th March 2023. They did this by framing the shutdown as posing a great danger to all South Africans. The word ‘violence’ was bandied about with glee. The DA went as far as to attempt to interdict the national shutdown in order to stop it at all costs.
Though the Shutdown was led by the EFF, it was joined by various political parties, as well as the South African Federation of Trade Unions, SAFTU. However the face focused on in this horrorific disinformation campaign, was solely that of EFF’s leader, Julius Malema.
Despite the fact that the community concerns that led to the call for the national shutdown have been raised multiple times over the years – and people have periodically taken to the streets in protest, the mainstream media houses decisively elected to leave out the key objectives of the shutdown. And this regardless of the fact that the major concerns had been spelt out precisely and unambiguously by the organisers, together with assurances that the shutdown would be free of violence and intimidation.
The plentiful EFF pressers evidently fell onto deaf ears as Ramaphosa’s corporate sponsors, the Democratic Alliance (DA), neoliberal leaders of Chapter 9 institutions and the mainstream media, simply overlooked these objectives and assurances. Instead they colluded to roll-out out a campaign of fear mongering and mistrust and continued to ignore the multiparty aspect, singling out the EFF alone.
It was clear that their aim, in their racist campaign, was to vilify the party. It was also clear that this was a multi pronged hate campaign with financial backing as social and mainstream media was flooded with anti-EFF fear mongering, fake news and authoritarian balderdash referring to the shutdown as nonsense that must be dealt with. All this despite the fact that millions of South Africans supported the march – even if fair number did this via their social media accounts.
MAINSTREAM MEDIA SABOTAGE
The White controlled mainstream media sought to portray the shutdown to the South African public as a failure before it even started. For example, Stephen Grootes, one of the Daily Maverick’s senior writers, penned an anti-EFF and shutdown opinion piece headlined:-
“South Africa: EFF’s National Shutdown Plan – Another Publicity Stunt With Near-Zero Chance of Becoming Reality”
But, regardless of the well-funded purveyors of this racist propaganda and fake news bombardment, many South Africans regard the 20 March 2023 anti-corruption shutdown a success. especially in light of all that stood to ensure its failure. The key issues and calls underpinning the shutdown include: mismanagement of state resources, poor service delivery, the energy crisis and a demand for Ramaphosa to step-down. This message was delivered loudly. Its success also lies in the fact that it was peaceful, as promised by Malema.
Yet despite its obvious success, another Daily Maverick’s senior writer, Ferial Haffajee, penned a post-shutdown propaganda opinion piece (possibly written before the shutdown kicked off) in the Daily Maverick.
Here we saw, yet again, the hackneyed methods employed by this site to create propaganda. As per usual the headline screams danger as Malema, CIC of the EFF is framed in the same way former terrorists (such as Mandela) were framed in the apartheid days and accused of “violent insurrection.” The difference is Malema is not calling for an armed struggle – but is still projected as someone who seeks to “kill all whites.”
The headline reads:
“Courts, cops, private security and civil society put a halt to the EFF’s politics of violent insurrection”
Haffajee’s byline was punctuated with equal misinformation and obvious smear campaign language – aimed at ensuring that the EFF is loathed and feared by local and international readers alike.
The byline reads:
“South Africa’s party of violence was on Monday stopped in its tracks as mostly peaceful protests were held across South Africa”
The nefarious plan was no doubt to distract the attention of the South African public from the objectives of the shutdown, as well as to muddy and invisibilise the urgency of the Native African majority people’s views about their uniquely appalling living conditions.
It was a clear mandate to protect Ramaphosa, his equally corrupt political cronies and the corporate bosses, who have groomed him to project manage the ANC on their behalf, thus protecting their White monopoly strangle-hold of the South African economy at the expense of the poverty-stricken Native African majority.
The national shutdown was mostly about addressing the economic plight of the majority Native African people. It is the empowerment of the majority that scares the neoliberal system the most and the thought that national protest action will eventually lead to their equal access to the economic resources of the country, including access to land and ownership. Equality for all is exactly what the South African minority settler community does not want. Empowerment of the Native African majority is the stuff of their nightmares.
Consequently, the hired peddlers of propaganda, fear, fake social media news, as well as enemies of authentic social transformation had called on Ramaphosa to unleash his security forces, the police and private security companies on the EFF and the protesters.
The manner in which this manufactured and manipulated consent campaign manifested itself and found resonance within the ANC tripartite Alliance was revealed by the ruling party’s denial of the core reasons that eventually led to the call for the shutdown. This was perfectly demonstrated by the Minister of Police, Bheki Cele, in his address to members to the police three (3) days before the shutdown.
The minister used inflammatory language, as well as issued the police a coded instruction to commit acts of violence against the protesters to stop the shutdown before it even began.
In his eagerness to impress Ramaphosa about his unwavering loyalty to him, Cele said the following to the gathering of the police members:
“….You protect, you prevent, you combat. You will have to investigate, but if you do combating (sic) and prevention and protection proper there might be no need for investigation”
“Many, many South Africans are on your side! Many, many South Africans don’t want this nonsense to happen! And this nonsense must not happen, and you are there to make sure that this nonsense doesn’t happen!
Cele then concludes by asking the police members:
“Why does it seem like you are afraid of them (the national shutdown protesters)?
He then shouted at them with a display of bravado:
“Are you afraid of them?”
Although these utterances could be said to be ambiguous, they are clearly tacit in their implication with regards to what the expected attitude of the police should be and how they ought to handle the protesters. He was in fact, inferring that the police must be aggressive in stopping the national shutdown which Cele referred to several times as nonsense that must not happen.
It is clear from these statements that Cele was instigating and encouraging the police to adopt a hostile and combative approach to the national shutdown and the citizens engaged in the protest. The coded statement seems to also imply that if, in the course of stopping the shutdown successfully, police officers commit violations, but cover them up properly he will offer them protection and/or immunity from criminal prosecution.
Furthermore, the newly appointed Transport Minister Sindi Chikunga convened an urgent meeting with companies whose busses the EFF had booked and paid for to ferry protesters. It is alleged that Chikunga threatened to cancel the company’s government subsidies and instructed them not to transport any EFF members or protesters to the shutdown meeting points.
However, when confronted with this information the presidency defended Chikunga’s conduct and abuse of power which violated the EFF’s constitutional rights. Among others, the Minister in the Presidency, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni said:
“As government, we have to play our part to make sure that citizens are protected. We are not going to allow state resources to be used by hooligans wanting to disrupt the country”
It was not surprising then, that when arresting students who had gathered in Braamfontein in support of the shutdown, the police officers were seen engaging in indiscriminate acts of violence against them and proceeded to arrest some students. Contrary to Cele’s claim that his ministry is committed to the campaign to end gender-based violence, a number of female students were violently manhandled and violently pushed into the police vehicles by the arresting officers. This is despite the fact that none of the students resisted arrest.
Bheki Cele’s utterances and obvious encouragement of police aggression towards the shutdown protesters mirrors the same reckless bravado and lack of empathy that led to Ramaphosa to abuse his political connectivity and ill-gotten wealth to influence the state’s intervention in favour of the London Mining Company, (LONMIN) during the August 2012 Marikana miner’s strike. The miners were demanding decent working conditions, better living conditions and a living wage, as guaranteed by the Republic of South Africa’s Constitution and Bill of Rights.
Ramaphosa’s intervention, which sought the police to force the miners back to work, resulted in the South African police massacring 34 striking mineworkers. Not surprising, to this day, Ramaphosa denies any liability for the deaths of the miners. LONMIN, for which Ramaphosa had allegedly used his political network to help evade tax payments, wilfully avoided full responsibility and liability for the deaths by declaring bankruptcy and consequently merged with another mining giant, Sibanye-Stillwater.
Given all of this background, it is becoming more and more clear that Ramaphosa’s main political concern as a President is about the welfare of the corporate bosses who are his major political campaign funders and the financial lifeline enabling his political stranglehold of the ANC hierarchy and leadership. This has been the case throughout the years dating back to his incorporation into the Urban Foundation established by the White mining industry bosses in 1976 to counter the influence of the Native African liberation struggle in South Africa.
It is also clear the Ramaphosa administration relies on the continuation of the endemic racial fragmentation of the South African society by fuelling and instilling a culture of fear and mistrust among people of different race communities. This is especially the case with the minority South African settler communities who continue to be encouraged to live in fear and mistrust of the poverty-stricken majority Native African people. The EFF has become their semiotic for fear of the African majority.
These are the same propaganda strategies and racist narratives that are applied by corrupt White corporate bosses who use their mainstream media platforms to manipulate and manufacture public fear and consent in terms of brutalizing protestors. It is part of their endemic ‘Divide and Rule’ strategy that the apartheid regime had relied on to vilify all the Native African people who dared to challenge its authority over the African body, its human rights transgressions and racist-driven brutal oppression of the Native African majority.
Interestingly, the DA has for years, portrayed itself as the only party capable of dealing with corruption. It has been pushing its line of outraged aggrieve on behalf of South African citizens fed-up by the rampant corruption linked to the Ramaphosa administration. As far as we knew they too wanted Ramaphosa to step-down and has no issues with punting this message as a White-driven opposition party that has mostly built its political image on the anti-ANC corruption campaign.
Yet, the DA was quick to seek a court interdict against the anti-corruption national shutdown, using the trope of probable violence and scare mongering arguments in an attempt to sabotage it. This is a shameless undermining and contradicting of their own publicly-stated ‘Anti-corruption and ‘Ramaphosa Must Step-down’ campaign and flouts the wishes of millions of over-burdened tax-payers.
This only underscores the theory that the ANC and DA are two sides of the same coin engaged in a political chess game. Their trajectory it seems, is the same. Protect white business and oppress the majority by any means necessary.
Their mandate is clearly to protect Ramaphosa’s administration until they muster up the might to step in and take over. It is to distract the attention of the South African citizens from their grave concerns over rampant state corruption and Ramaphosa’s alleged involvement in serious economic crimes, such as international tax evasion, money laundering, bribery and election votes rigging.
Despite the evidence that some key members of Ramaphosa’s administration are in collusion with corrupt racist multinational White corporate bosses who are hell-bent on looting and plundering South Africa’s natural resources, as well as exploit the corrupt ANC leaders as conduits to the rest of the continent’s natural resources – the DA would rather shield them than allow a Leftist party to overturn their limp plan to bring the country under ‘White Rule’.
Thus both the DA and the ANC wilfully overlook the concerns that informed the call for the national shutdown. These concerns have long been a source of social unrest to which the Ramaphosa administration has always responded to with denials, empty promises and police repression, thereby ignoring legitimate social grievances.
Ordinary South Africans have been ongoing victims of the mismanagement of state resources, lack of service delivery, lack of equal access to quality primary health-care, decolonised and quality education, equal employment opportunities, and sky-rocketing fuel and food prices – precisely because of the rampant corruption to which Ramaphosa, his close associates and his political cronies in the ANC tripartite Alliance, as well as compromised members of the judiciary system, are allegedly directly linked to.
The endemic corruption, allegedly linked directly to Ramaphosa, led to mismanagement, and in some cases the virtual demise of South Africa’s key parastatals or State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs). These include ESKOM, Central Energy Fund (CEF), SAA, TRANSNET, DENEL, PetroSA (Pty) Ltd, National Empowerment Fund, Land Bank and Agriculture Bank of South Africa (Land Bank), Development Bank of Southern Africa (DBSA), National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), the South African Reserve Bank, Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA).
The main objective behind this economic sabotage of the SOEs was to collapse most of them and then manipulate and manufacture public consent to sell them off to private entities and cronies linked to Ramaphosa – a collusion that has significantly contributed to the energy crisis and regular load-shedding which has for the past 15 years adversely affected mostly the poverty-stricken majority of South African citizens. The looting and secret wholesale of SAA, as well as corruption tainted plans to sell off ESKOM and other SOEs had surfaced a good few years ago and been an open secret ever since.
The tradeoff for Ramaphosa was that the corporate bosses would fund all his political campaigns to guarantee him the ANC and State presidency while he provides them with protection from pro-poor government policies. These are developments that manifested themselves long before the call for the 20 March 2023 national shutdown had been announced.
It is, therefore, disingenuous for the enemies of socioeconomic transformation, social justice, equality and the empowerment of the economically marginalised majority, to seek to sanitise the national shutdown of the critical social issues and community concerns that culminated in the call for the national shutdown.
It is clear that the 20 March 2023 anti-corruption national shutdown has, yet again, exposed how the current South African civil society organisations and Chapter 9 institutions only pay lip service to the social concerns raised by the majority South Africans. It is therefore necessary and in the best interest of the Native African to interrogate what and how, in the African context, civil society and Chapter 9 institutions are constituted, the real purpose informing their formation, as well as their DNA leadership make-up.
It is also time for the majority to defy this irascible systemic violence metered against it in corporate sponsored press propaganda campaigns, as well as state machinery that only works to oppress them and continues to favour neoliberal policies that benefit the oppressor at their expense – over and over again.
Photo: From left to right: Cyril Ramaphosa, Bheki Cele, Sindi Chikunga &Khumbudzo Ntshavheni (Images:GCIS) All tried to sabotage the National Shutdown