With so much attention and media coverage surrounding the months-long strike in the platinum belt, it was just a matter of time before the media cottoned on to a controversial topic and not let go.
The obvious debate around the strike revolves around capitalism versus socialism: the view that the miners are paid little and the bosses too much. On 13 May, Chris Griffiths, Anglo Platinum’s CEO, was interviewed by John Robbie on 702. Robbie did his usual thing using all the tricks in the book to throw Griffiths off his stride as he machine-gunned, red-ragged and para-phrased.
· Machine-gunnning: the interviewer asks a series of questions one after the other without allowing the interviewee the opportunity to answer;
· Red-ragging: the interviewer tries to get the interviewee angry; and
· Para-phrasing: the interviewer tries to put negative words in the mouth of the interviewee.
These are all techniques designed to confuse the interviewee so that he says something he will later regret.
To his credit, Griffiths was clearly in control for most of the interview, and used clever tactics of his own to get his message across. Griffith’s only area of discomfort regarded his remuneration and that was what the station focused on.
An interview is like a game of ping-pong. Control shifts constantly from the interviewer and the interviewee, with the latter trying to ensure they get their message across. I believe that Griffiths achieved that goal. His messages were clear:
– Amplats’ offer is a good offer.
– Workers want to return to work.
– The demand from AMCU is unaffordable.
– The situation is extremely serious.
Robbie launched his opening salvo with heavily emotive and controversial words such as “dire poverty, intimidation, DEATH, awful situation”. Griffiths immediately responded with his messaging: “Our offer is fair and affordable”, Amcu’s’ demand was “unaffordable” and would lead to the company “stopping operations” which is a situation that “in the long-term benefits no-one”.
Not to be outdone Robbie quickly got the ball back in his court by shifting the topic. He refers to “being the devil’s advocate” and “not wanting to embarrass (Griffiths)” when he clearly meant exactly the opposite! So he launched the attack: “But you took home R17.6 million last year which is obscene” – a good example of para-phrasing and red-ragging strategies.
The answer was never going to be easy. Griffiths replied, “I am never going to win this argument but that amount isn’t my take home package.” And, “Less than 1% of our total wage bill is executive pay.”
Not a bad attempt. But the issue wasn’t going to go away.
Griffiths used the opportunity to stress that there was always a “long-term” plan to increase wages of SKILLED labour and re-iterated that “workers want to come back to work.”His final words left a lasting impression: “this is a very dire situation”.
On 22 May, Mail & Guardian published an article on the strike entitled “The bosses eat, but we are starving” highlighting Griffiths’ salary alongside the desperate photographs of people starving.
They quoted that “he came out in defence of his salary… but it fell flat…”. His response: “Must I run this company and deal with this nonsense for nothing? I am at work, not on strike.”It was a phrase that played into the hands of the media. Griffiths fell into the trap of letting his anger get the better of him.
And so the game continues.
This example demonstrates that one can never be too prepared for an interview. Additionally, work not only on your positive issues (messages), but on your Achilles heel too…
IMAGE: Amplats CEO Chris Griffiths at Talk Radio 702 / EWN
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