“Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson has previously expressed her desire to transform fisheries in South Africa.” Cape Times editorial ‘Fishing out corruption’ 15/5/2014
“Everything that my client, Mr Stevens, did was done either with the minister’s knowledge or under her instruction and he can prove it,” Mr Bagraim said.
“Joemat-Pettersson blaming official to save her job, says lawyer” Paul Vecchiatto, political correspondent for Business Day, 16/5/2014
On 13 December last year this website published my article, ‘An epitaph for the Cape Times?’ The question mark is no longer appropriate. As the following chronology of recent coverage proves, the newspaper is now utterly captive to the ANC in general and Luthuli House in particular.
Absence of an Nkandla editorial
The whole country was informed well in advance that on the morning of Wednesday 19 March, the Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela, would release her long-awaited report on Nkandla and explain, hopefully, how a man who earns R2.7 million annually could end up with a housing estate valued at close to a quarter of a billion rand.
An hour or so before Madonsela started addressing the media and the country via live television coverage, a group of reporters was locked in a room without cellphones or other means of communication and each was given an embargoed copy of the report on the strict understanding that its contents could not be revealed before the news conference started.
By 14h15 the gist of the report had been widely disseminated by them and also through the live television coverage. This was well before the deadline for the editorial page on the Cape Times. So what did the editor think of Madonsela’s report on Nkandla?
The only newspaper of consequence in South Africa that did not have an editorial on Nkandla on Thursday 20 March was the Cape Times.
Nkandla is anathema to the Zuma faction of the once-great party of Nelson Mandela and it is accordingly anathema to the previously independent Independent Group of newspapers.
The censorship of Thuli and the exculpation of Tina
The absence of any editorial reference to Madonsela’s report on Nkandla was no accident and that much became obvious on 16 May when every newspaper in the country – with the exception of the Cape Times of course – led with the ANC’s announcement the previous day that it was going to seek a judicial review of her Nkandla report so as to delay for as long as possible any debate on the matter in parliament.
What was the Cape Times front page lead on 16 May and why was it the front page lead?
‘Nkandla report taken to court for review’ was four-deck, single column headline – below the fold obviously – and buried on the bottom right corner of the page.
The banner headline was ‘U-turn on fishing rights’ and is the first salvo in what, from now on, will be a gyroscopic campaign of spin by the Cape Times to shield Joemat-Pettersson from the consequences of her disastrous reign as fisheries minister.
As a taster the day before this front page lead, the Cape Times carried an oleaginous editorial headed ‘Fishing out corruption’ and it related to another scandal on her watch, the Foodcorps deal that saw fishing quotas being given to people with close connections to the ANC.
“Joemat-Pettersson is now determined to get to the bottom of the R445 million deal in which it was reported that R50 million worth of fishing quotas – that used to belong to Foodcorp – had allegedly been reallocated to two companies without due process.”
To make sure we got the message, a front page article in the second, business section of the newspaper on 16 May was headlined, ‘Fish industry cheers minister’s scrapping of FRAP’. And the intro read: “The fishing industry gave kudos to agriculture, forestry and fisheries minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson for setting aside the 2013 Fishing Rights Allocation Process (FRAP).”
The DAFF fishing rights allocation process of 2013 left thousands of previous rights holders unable to provide for their families and the rights were given to politically connected people and organisations. Fortunately, though, we have one remaining newspaper in the city that can be relied upon to tell the truth.
Die Burger’s front page lead on 17 May read: “Vis-fiasko kos miljoene. Joemat-Pettersson ‘die ergste ding wat visbedryf nog getref het’ (Fisheries fiasco costs millions. Joemat-Pettersson the worst thing ever to have befallen the fishing industry.)
Furthermore, it is clear that the ‘Guptagate option’ will be used to divert attention away from the minister in the Foodcorp case – because the buck never stops with her, the blame will be placed on officials as was the case when the Gupta wedding party landed at Waterkloof airbase.
That case has conveniently slipped off the radar, which is what the ANC relies on. In the Foodcorps case the official who she will attempt to blame is fighting back. On the same day that the Cape Times had its whitewash lead story on Joemat-Pettersson, Business Day carried an article, which anchors this column, saying that she was trying to pin the blame on Desmond Stevens, the department’s director for stakeholder relations and formerly the acting deputy director-general of its fisheries branch. Stevens, however, says he was merely carrying out her orders and has hired leading Cape Town labour lawyer, Michael Baigraim, to defend him. According to Bagraim: “Everything that my client, Mr Stevens, did was done either with the minister’s knowledge or under her instruction and he can prove it.”
There is nothing new in all of this – it has been going on for years since the ANC gained control of the department. Writing in the Sunday Times of 14 November 2010 – a year after Joemat-Pettersson was appointed – Bobby Jordan told of how a senior Western Cape ANC politician, ex-MP Maxwell Moss, had used his influence to acquire a fishing quota for an ANC member whose involvement in the industry was somewhat tenuous – she owned a fish and chip shop in the small country town of Darling and had never owned a fishing boat or employed crew.
How was this achieved? Why, with the assistance of the Sea Fisheries officials who report to Joematt-Pettersson, of course!
Who previously owned the two-ton crayfish fishing – worth R600 000 annually in 2010 – which was so suddenly and magically acquired by ANC member Ms Wendy Brown of Darling?
The answer is quite heart breaking.
It was owned by 197 fishermen and women who lived in the impoverished township of Imizamo Yethu which overlooks Hout Bay. Harbour. If the Sunday Times report is correct they never received a cent for the quota which was taken away from them by DAFF at the behest of Moss. In fact they were never even informed but perhaps that is not surprising. Mavis Ngetu who represents the former shareholders from Hout bay Imizamo Yethu township said, “There are a lot of people getting quotas who were never in the fishing industry”.
I have personal experience of this. In 2005 I used to buy roses for my girlfriend every Friday afternoon at a florist in a Sea Point shopping centre. The woman who ran the shop was married to a second generation fisherman of Portuguese extraction who operated out of Hout Bay with a crew consisting of coloured people from the local community who came from a long line of fishing folk and men from the rural areas of the Transkei, also with many years of fishing experience and who lived in Imizamo Yethu township.
One day, seeing that she looked absolutely distraught, I asked her what was wrong.With her eyes brimming with tears she said “they” had taken away her husband’s fishing quota and that it was common cause that it had been given to politically connected people. Aside from her small salary as the manager of a flower shop they had no other source of income and neither did the crew members who relied on her husband for an income. This was thus just a rehearsal for last year’s fishing rights allocations process which saw thousands of people lose their source of income from the sea.
Why is the Cape Times doing this, seeking as best it can absolution for a minister who is to sea fisheries what Dina Pule was to broadcasting or Siphiwe Nyanda was to the military? sSmeone who is inept, if not corrupt and lives high on the hog at the taxpayer’s expense?
Could this be the same person that is taking the public protector on review over the damning findings in her report, ‘Docked Vessels’, which found that she had acted recklessly in awarding a contract to Sekunjalo Marine Services Consortium which, by cosmic coincidence just happens to be the company of Iqbal Survé?
Could this be the same person who so incensed an ANC MP, Salam Abram, that he called her a liar and resigned from the party? Who blew nearly half a million rand on accommodation during the Soccer World Cup? Who spent R400 000 of taxpayers’ money on air fares for her children during a holiday in Sweden, before flying back to organise one of President Jacob Zuma’s weddings?
Could, the attempted whitewash, by cosmic coincidence be because it was on Joemat-Pettersson’s watch that Sekunjalo was awarded the dubious contract which was to have such a catastrophic impact on our marine fish resources and to lead, indirectly, to the dismissal of Alide Dasnois and the subsequent and justifiable departure of some of the best reporting talents in the previously independent Independent Group – Chris Whitfield, Janet Heard, Ann Crotty, Terry Bell, Caryn Dolley et al?
The exculpation of Ebrahim Rasool and the re-uniting of the ‘dream team’
Another singular and significant campaign that the Independent Group of newspapers has embarked on is the exculpation of Ebrahim Brown Envelope” Rasool who will be without a job when his tenure as South African ambassador to the USA ends in July and who will be seeking to re-join Marius “Brown Envelope” Fransman, the team that tore the Western Cape ANC apart in 2005.
A ‘good story’ to tell
What was perhaps even more startling was the Cape Times response to an unprecedented call on World Press Freedom day by the Mail & Guardian, the Financial Mail and Rapport for their readers not to vote for the ANC of Jacob Zuma in the 7 May election.
The two-fingered editorial response by the Cape Times was not just in your face it was jab in the nostrils. The headline of the editorial, ‘A good story to tell’ came straight from the ANC’s 2014 election campaign and its thrust was that despite all the ills that beset us we have never – to paraphrase Harold Macmillan’s July 1957 speech – had it so good and it is all thanks to the ANC.
However, from a media perspective, there is a good story to tell despite what Wesley Douglas and Chelsea Amor Lotz in her trademark skyscraper red stilettos would have you believe about the lack of transformation in the sector.
Bongani Siqoko, who took over as Daily Dispatch editor last June heads up a team of young investigative reporters who literally grow in stature by the week and, as Gill Moodie pointed out on her Grubstreet website last week, its 4-5% rise in circulation figures is the highest of the dailies.
Business Day, the country’s most influential daily, is in safe hands as the new editor, Songezo Zibi, proved when he recently handled a tricky ethical situation with aplomb.
But for me, the revelation in recent media coverage of the election has been the arrival of eNCA’s new political pundit, Angelo Fick.
It was obvious that the station could no longer call on Karima Brown as it has in the past because the term, “independent political analyst” would now be a misnomer.
Fick has proved to be an ideal replacement. He has gravitas. He looks good, speaks well and is sincere. His quietly confident analysis is measured, cogent and never polemical.
Unlike the state broadcaster, eNCA goes from strength to strength.
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