THE media's obsession with consistently portraying ANC leaders as inefficient and corrupt fat cats was the biggest threat to South Africa's hard- earned democracy, ANC regional chairman Nceba Faku said yesterday.
In an exclusive interview with The Herald, Faku, who was re-elected as party leader in Nelson Mandela Bay last month, questioned the patriotism of black journalists particularly, saying journalists should condemn wrongdoing and had a role to play in angling news stories in such a way that did not erode the ANC-led democracy.
Faku said the print media, especially, had positioned itself in such a way that ensured voters "crossed over to the opposition”.
"From the period of 1999 to 2005, the noise from the media was that the ANC was too powerful and that it was a problem for democracy to have a one-party state.
"Therefore the media, some media, went as far as positioning themselves to adopt an agenda that drives voters from the ANC,” Faku said.
He said black journalists were expected to be patriotic and promote cultural values when conducting their work.
"I am not being racist, I am racial. Most people cannot differentiate between the two.
"It is a fact that black culture is better. White culture is about me, myself and I, whereas as black people we are about communities.
"For example, when you [as a black person] have a birthday party, I don't have to be invited to that whereas white people will tell you that ‘excuse me, we only catered for so many people and so we will need to ask you to leave'.”
After the ANC marginally won the municipal elections last year, Faku lashed out at the media for driving what he believed was an agenda to promote opposition parties to take over the city.
He said black people and journalists who did not like other black people and their organisations should be driven into the sea or go to Europe, a statement which he yesterday admitted was "an exaggeration and should not have been said on a public platform”.
In recent months, a public war between Faku and mayor Zanoxolo Wayile has split ANC members in the city, with those aligned to Faku calling for Wayile and those who support him in council to be fired.
The hostility led to Wayile and his supporters walking out of the regional conference last month, where Wayile was expected to stand for election. This led to Faku and his team being elected unopposed.
"I have no doubt that we do need a mayoral reshuffle. I think I agree entirely with the REC [regional executive committee] on that one,” Faku said.
He said while there was nothing wrong with them, in terms of performance he felt the ANC had been short-changed.
However, with the last Bay mayor, Nondumiso Maphazi, also recalled, how would the ANC break this instability?
"It will happen all the time, until we strike the right chord. You must remember that it is very difficult to predict human nature. You might be cooperative now and be loyal but when we deploy you, suddenly now something just comes out of you.
"It has to be done, both for the ANC and the voters of the ANC.
"If we demonstrate that we are trying to correct what we realise is a shortcoming in service delivery, they [voters] will see our good intentions.”
Faku again accused the media of being the biggest culprit eroding public confidence in the ruling party.
"Confidence has gone down thanks to the media,” he said.
"The media – unfortunately the SABC is equally not helping, just like you lot – consistently pumps [out] an impression that ANC leaders should not be trusted, there are elite and fat cats, some of them are corrupt, the ANC municipalities and government are inefficient and whatever else.
"These things corrode the confidence of the ordinary people in government, but again, it is about the earlier point that I made, that this is the agenda of the media, to make people cross to the opposition parties.”
Asked if the media was reporting on government and ANC problems that were not there, Faku said he could not deny that problems existed.
"But the angle of your publication of them is that they must impact negatively on the democracy as led by the ANC.
"You are not assisting people to believe in democracy, but still to condemn the individual that is wrong. This is one big part of the corrosion,” he said.
"What I also like is that somehow our people are able to make a difference [sic] between your distortions and what is fact.”
Faku said the media reported on what it wanted to see, instead of reality.
Reporting on the discourse during the ANC regional conference last month was tilted towards a "small group” of disgruntled people who had opted not to attend the conference, he said.
"We are coming from the conference. You are not interested in projecting the views of the conference as constituted by the majority of the delegates coming from members of the ANC.
"We are subjected to voices from a small group that is disgruntled and they are profiled as if they are a competing voice with the legitimate voice of the ANC.
"That is exactly the problem I have with you guys.”
Faku said the conference had created a space for Wayile to address his concerns to delegates but "again, the Western mentality, the I, me stuff [came in].”
"There is no denial that there is a breakdown, but to me [it] is not an issue. As the REC we want to move away from individual politics,” Faku said.
"Our challenge is how then do we begin to help people to refocus on issues that are meaningful to them.”
WHAT FAKU SAID ABOUT BEING A BLACK JOURNALIST:
NWABISA MAKUNGA: "WE all have rights that are protected by the constitution, but do we all believe that those should be achieved the same way? The issue I have with your belief [about the media] is that why do we all have to be cloned to think the same way as you? Why should we not debate or interrogate issues?”
NCEBA FAKU: "What I would like to achieve with you in this lunch discussion is for you as an African child, as a black child, to accept the fact that you have a duty to your country and to your people. If only you can accept that, I would have achieved something from this lunch, because that will then lay the foundation of how you will philosophise about life; that will lay the foundation of how your ideology will be framed in your mind.
"If you don't have a sense of belonging, if you belong to everybody, to any person, you are likely to miss your contribution in shaping society.”