VUYO MVOKO | ANC must not condone bullies
Having been the political reporter on duty last weekend, Monday and Tuesday were supposed to be his off days – until the ANC released an alert saying its national executive committee (NEC) would be holding a special meeting to discuss the party’s candidate list for the May 8 poll.
And coming as the meeting was, the day after headline stories about secretary-general Ace Magashule, Samkele Maseko was the obvious choice to cover it.
He needed no persuasion, agreeing to park outside St George’s Hotel in Irene, Pretoria, waiting for the moment the media would be allowed into the meeting venue to take pictures and for the perfect moment to put a question to Magashule about very serious allegations levelled against him in journalist Pieter-Louis Myburgh’s new book, Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture.
The next day, Samkele began his two-day break in lieu of his weekend duty.
But true to form, on Tuesday morning the big little guy was feverishly texting his editors about a scoop he had received from his sources – that the ANC NEC had taken a decision to submit the party’s candidates list to the scrutiny of its integrity committee.
With no one from the ANC willing to go on record to confirm or deny the story, we decided Maseko should break it from home via Skype.
And that’s when the ANC communications team told him to rush to the party’s headquarters, where its deputy secretary-general, Jessie Duarte, would speak about the matter.
Upon her arrival in the designated room, and before eNCA and SABC cameras started rolling, Duarte intimated that questions unrelated to her statement would have to be directed at the party’s national spokesperson, Dakota Legoete, who was also in the room.
Duarte then read her prepared statement – which Maseko’s channel was taking live – confirming that indeed the ANC NEC had resolved to rope in the party’s integrity committee, asking it to look at the candidates list and feel free to make recommendations to the NEC.
As soon as she finished her statement, she allowed questions and Maseko’s was: Why did the ANC deem it fit to take the list to the integrity committee if, as the party had maintained, there was nothing wrong with the list?
What powers will the integrity committee have?
Can it remove people from the list, for example?
And that’s what broke the camel’s back – simple and straightforward questions about what Duarte had just spoken about.
They were not some unrelated questions as some people who entered the debate without facts have been suggesting.Duarte’s response was she was “not taking attacking questions from you or eNCA”.She then tried to instruct the channel’s crew to switch off its camera, which it didn’t do, after which she then went on her now infamous tirade.Accusing Maseko of thinking he was “the lord of the media”, and of being “arrogant” and a “bully”, she also took a swipe at eNCA, saying the channel had long taken a stand against the ANC and in support of the DA.In her words: “I have never met anyone who is as arrogantly disposed as you are, and you want to defend freedom of speech you never fought for.“And you don’t defend freedom of speech, because your particular TV station has decided the direction it will go on.”The ANC was quick to rally behind her, releasing a statement claiming eNCA’s version of the altercation was “one-sided and biased”, adamant it was Maseko who showed an “unacceptable and unprofessional outburst”.Mind you, the altercation had been broadcast live.Lies, of course, have short legs.In a couple of hours the ANC had withdrawn its statement, and Duarte and the ANC’s communications desk were asking for a meeting with eNCA management.The two parties met, whereafter the ANC said it “regretted” the “unfortunate incident”, reiterating its commitment to media freedom.Duarte is known for her cantankerous outbursts, or as her comrades in the ANC communication team prefer to put it, “problems with her temper”.She has offended and abused many, some of whom have never had the courage to talk or push back.Her perverted and warped notions of struggle and democracy entitle her to some kind of immunity from tough questions about the party she and Magashule are running, on a full-time basis, and which is currently asking us to give it yet another chance when we go to elections in just more than a month’s time.Her sense of entitlement tells her that a 28-year-old journalist who “never struggled for media freedom” has no right to demand something he didn’t “fight for”.Imagine the chilling effect this will have on other young journalists who must hold errant leaders and elected public representatives to account.For its own sake, and as a party that wants to continue to govern this country, the ANC would do well to deal decisively with those among its ranks who have no respect for the kind of country most of us aspire to.Respect for the institutions that are restoring the dignity of our country and its people, which people like Duarte seem hellbent on destroying, should be sacrosanct.● Disclosure: Vuyo Mvoko is eNCA’s political editor and Samkele Maseko’s immediate boss.