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OPINION | Tebogo Khaas: Madame Deputy Secretary-General Engage The Issues, Not The Writer

Tebogo Khaas responds to an email sent to

In an incoherent early-morning missive emailed to a News24 address in response to the said piece, Duarte decries the “subjective and unbalanced” assertions that I made, including my diction. Except that she miscued. Let me explain.

In a feeble attempt at fobbing off justifiable public criticism of the ANC, Duarte, unprovoked and to her credit, points to a “dismal failure” by 33 ANC-run municipalities that contributed to her party’s poor showing during the local elections. Duarte claims that “the enterprise management style (sic) of looting by both ANC members, business and civil society actors contributed to that collapse.”

Pardon my ignorance, but, like everyone else I presume, I was unaware that looting comes in different management styles. The Cadreshians of Tambo must have perfected an enterprise-wide varietal. But I digress.

Duarte is affronted by my well-established assertion that “Mbalula and Duarte’s conduct [in haranguing election officials and seeking to commandeer the SABC] is vintage and dispositive of ANC recidivism.”

Jessie Duarte said the deputy secretary-general must refrain from blaming the messenger’s inkhorn and engage earnestly with the substance of the issues articulated.

The use of the term ‘vintage’ is most upsetting 

In particular, the word “vintage” seems to rile her the most. This is despite me referencing a well-published incident that took place in 2016 in which then ANC secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, remonstrated with then IEC deputy chairperson, Terry Tselane, under the unmistakable gaze of live television cameras. At the time, Duarte was standing right in front of Mantashe and partook in the despicable conduct.

Of course, Duarte would feel ashamed by my unflattering use of the word “vintage” since there is nothing high quality, nevermind exemplary, that could be attributed to egregious conduct by senior officials of the governing party. And the fact is, the ANC mistakenly thinks that it is singularly entitled to be treated with unqualified deference and obsequiousness.

Incredulously, Duarte goes on to posit thus: “No sir, we are aware of what caused the low turnout, [and] we know how to correct it.” Oh, please! With respect, spare us the drivel madame DSG.

Knowing how to correct something is one thing, and doing the actual correction is another.

If Duarte and the ANC really knew how to “correct” poor electoral performance, they should have done so in the past three election cycles where poor voter turnout cost the ANC dearly. Evidently, voters punished the ANC for not changing.

READ | Pieter du Toit: Party then state and in 3rd place, country: Why Ramaphosa, ANC will end in tears

If the role of an organisation’s secretary-general, and the deputy in their absence, is to, inter alia, be the public face of the organisation, be responsible for its office leadership, and give direction and clarity to its strategic and policy development and implementation, then Duarte fails in all respects.

Also, it is disconcerting that a high-ranking ANC official could, as Duarte states in her email, “concede that the views of SABC journalists, some very senior, who complained about the newsroom may not have assisted [ANC leadership] to deepen [they’re] understanding” given the swirling allegations of attempts at editorial interference by the ANC and persistent management instability at the embattled corporation.

This is gravely worrisome especially given the ongoing leaks related to disciplinary matters involving senior management at the SABC and the ANC’s complaints about the alleged poor coverage of the ANC by the SABC during the elections. Notably, Duarte has never adduced any shred of evidence of bias against the ANC by the broadcaster.

SABC is no longer a propaganda machine 

Could it be that the ANC and Duarte are reminiscing about the 2016 election cycle when disgraced former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng infamously instituted a media blackout that sought to suppress broadcast of violent service delivery protests countrywide against the ANC? This was on the eve of the municipal elections when the ANC had sensed that it stood to lose support in major municipalities. It is a matter of record that the ANC performed badly then, though much better than this year’s shellacking.

The days of using the SABC as a propaganda machine are over. The current SABC board, notwithstanding its imperfections, isn’t inclined to repeat the mistakes of the previous disgraced boards. What it and its management team need the most is public support and protection from the likes of Duarte and Mbalula.

For the record, the 2021 local government elections were a referendum on the ANC’s service delivery record. The ANC, a habitual offender, lost on accord with not keeping its promises to the electorate and not because of lack of access to the SABC megaphone.

In my previous article I wrote: “In a lengthy missive to Duarte, statesman and former president Thabo Mbeki sagely observed: ‘It is obvious that if nothing changes with regard to the conditions and factors which helped to produce this outcome [dismal election results], and certainly if matters get worse [and facts point in that direction!], this will lead to a strategic defeat of the progressive movement and a historic victory for the right-wing [courtesy of the EFF and, fortuitously, the ANC itself].'”

Clearly by failing to address pertinent issues raised by Mbeki, never mind what pundits articulate, Duarte still can’t see the wood for the trees.

Bereft of leadership

Let me be clear. The ANC has sunk into an epoch of utter depravity and is rudderless. It is becoming increasingly clear that Mbeki’s warning that “if nothing changes…this will lead to a strategic defeat of the progressive movement” has fallen on deaf ears.

Duarte’s pitiable protest to my piece, just as her protest and petitioning of the then ANC-run municipality to change William Nicol Road to Winnie Mandela, amply demonstrates just how bereft of astute and credible leadership the ANC has become.

Duarte must refrain from blaming the messenger’s inkhorn and engage earnestly with the substance of the issues articulated.

READ | Tebogo Khaas: A lacklustre performance from the ANC but is this the end of its dominance?

Until Duarte can credibly deny that the SABC has laid a complaint with the Electoral Commission against her over a confrontation she had with its staff at the elections results centre early this month, including Mbalula’s separate attack of the SABC’s coverage of the municipal election, she has no reason to be slighted by my opinions.

I will not, however irresistible the temptation or exigency, exploit Duarte’s apparent disingenuity, deceit and lack of comprehension skills. But for her to accuse me of singling her out in my critique is not only downright abhorrent but redolent of accusations of gender-based vilification on my part. Whether this was calculated to elicit public sympathy, obfuscation or was plain mischief-making shall remain a mystery.

Pertinently, Duarte fails to acknowledge, wilfully or not, that I levelled the same criticism to ANC elections campaign head Fikile Mbalula and Mantashe as I did with her. In any event, it shouldn’t matter if I rained on her only as long as my critique was well-founded.

And please, at worst, rather label me a conscientious observer and an equal opportunity critic, madame DSG! A gender-based vilifier I’m not.

Tebogo Khaas is a political commentator and trustee of Public Interest SA.

 

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