OPINION: “Presidential spokesman Harold Maloka requested all questions to be sent by text. But by late afternoon he had not responded to any of them and his phone was off.” The Star 12/5/2015 Nxasana probe: Zuma makes U-turn
“Presidency spokesman Harold Maloka said the presidency could neither confirm nor deny receiving the letter. City Press 24/5/2015 Miners to take Zuma to court
Three months ago I posted an article on this website called ‘Spokespinners’: The sounds of silence’. It cited numerous examples of taxpayer-funded, ANC-deployed cadres who are allegedly spokespersons at various levels of governance or in parastatals but make themselves incommunicado at times of crisis in contravention of Section 16 of the Bill of Rights. Nothing has changed since then and, if anything, the silent spokespinners have a new role model. His name is Harold Maloka and he is the replacement for Mac Maharaj – whether permanent or temporary we don’t know.
Mac is missed most particularly I am sure by Zapiro. He knew that you as a journalist knew that he was spinning – sometimes with the most gloriously convoluted prose – but it was all done with good humour. He also knew that you knew of the sacrifices he had made and the suffering he had endured during the Struggle and that you respected that. He could sometimes, though, speak with almost startling candour. The interview cited on page 33 of Richard Calland’s outstanding book, ‘The Zuma Years – South Africa’s Changing face of Power’ (Zebra Press, 2013) is an example. In the interview he explains that he had declined an invitation from President Jacob Zuma to visit Nkandla because he feared that what he found there might compromise his ability to do his job in good faith. I was, as a reporter, able to watch Maharaj at work when he was transport minister in the early 1990s and the taxi associations in Cape Town were attacking the Golden Arrow buses. What I saw then convinced me that he was the best transport minister we have had.
Moloka was previously spokesman for the late Collins Chabane but newspaper reports seem to indicate that when media representatives need answers he will, like Kaizer Kganyago of the SABC, be difficult to contact and that, if contactable, he will be able to shed little light on matters of current moment within his purview.
When the African National Congress came to power 21 years ago it promised, in a complete break with the past, an unprecedented level of transparency along with honest and honourable governance. As these examples show it now seeks, in this regard, to emulate its predecessors. The question that troubles me most however is where is Sanef? Surely it should object and surely individual editors should reflect what is happening in editorials and op-ed articles? While journalists merely record in passing this pervasive dereliction of duty by highly-paid civil servants, they should take note that there is a grass-roots revolt against the practice – activists in Durban are now publicising the private cell phone numbers of leading politicians thereby rendering their silent spokespinners effectively redundant.
I have followed the same format that I used in the previous article which highlighted the routine dereliction of duty by deployed cadres which characterises the ‘Silent Spokespinner’ malaise. There are 30 examples in date order starting with the presidency then going on to national, provincial and municipal government and concluding with the SABC. Each example starts with the quote, the newspaper or website, the date of publication, the headline of the story and a URL if the story has been posted online.
“Both the Presidency and municipality were contacted on Tuesday morning for a response, but neither had responded by Wednesday morning.” News 24 21/4/2015 ANC KZN councillor disciplined for bid to stop graft.
“The Mail & Guardian approached Mahlobo, Mapisa-Nqakula, two deputy ministers, official police spokespeople and the presidency to try and find out where Nhleko was, without success.” Mail & Guardian 24/4/2015 Police minister missing as SA burns
“The air force, Defence Department and the Presidency on Tuesday repeatedly referred Beeld’s questions to each other for comment.” Beeld 13/5/2015 Plane drama sees millions extra spent to hire jets to get Zuma home
“Africa Check tried to contact the Presidency about the source of the claim but, despite sending numerous requests to acting spokesman, Harold Maloka, the fact-checking NGO didn’t receive a response. Access to electricity in 1994 was likely around 50%.President Zuma claims that 34% of South Africans had access to electricity in 1994. Despite numerous attempts to confirm the source of his claim we did not hear back from his office.” Daily Maverick 14/5/2015 Africa Check: Zuma wrong on household electricity – about 50% of homes had access in 1994
“Hulley referred questions to the President’s spokesperson, Harold Maloka, who did not respond by the time of going to print.” Mail & Guardian 15/5/2015. Rogue’ Sars unit spied for Zuma
“Presidential spokesman Harold Maloka did not respond to a request for comment.” Sunday Times 24/5/2015 ‘Zuma made Mandela feel ashamed’ – Libyan PM
“Radebe’s office failed to respond to several requests for the source material on which he based his claims. A government spokesperson, Phumla Williams, also ignored calls and text messages. We have evaluated the claims by drawing on publicly available data and information.” Africa Check 24/3/2015 Has President Zuma’s government done ‘a good job’?
“Neither Ms Joemat-Pettersson nor any of her officials responded to requests for comment on Wednesday.”
Business Day 2/4/2015 Joemat-Pettersson misses power deadlines
“SANDF spokesman Siphiwe Dlamini was not available for comment.”
Natal Mercury 6/4/205 Why does the president not fly SAA?
“It was not clear why they were there. SA Police Service spokesperson Solomon Makgale could not be reached for comment.
“Police on the scene are refusing to speak to the media.” News 24 15/4/2015 Police arrive at O’Sullivan’s house
“Fikile Mbalula has not responded to Sport24’s requests for comment on the matter.” News 24, 16/4/2015 Mbalula refutes Horn’s claims.
“Monyela did not want to answer questions on the amount Mandela is being paid while not taking up her position (as Danish ambassador) her conditions of service or what the reasons for the delay are.” Sunday Times 17/5/2015 Madam Ambassador Zindzi Mandela still stalling on Danish post
“Presidency spokesman Harold Maloka declined to comment. The Times 25/5/2015 Whites deserve rights of return
“The mother said she has written several letters to the hospital and Mpumalanga health department but has received no response. No investigation has been launched, and the department did not respond to questions from Netwerk24.” News 24 27/2/2015 Mom told to store premature baby’s body in freezer.
“GroundUp sent a list of questions to MEC Malakoane and Premier Magashule at 11:50am on 26 February. We made several attempts to contact their offices. The MEC’s office committed to providing answers by 10am on 27 February. After deadline, spokesperson Mondli Mvambi sent an email stating, “I am unfortunately diverted into attending the business of the Legislature this morning and will thus not be able to assist on time as was discussed yesterday. I can only do so at the end of the session of the sitting.” The premier’s spokesperson did not answer his phone and no response at all was received from the premier’s office.”
GroundUp: How the Free State health system is being destroyed – whistleblowers’ account Daily Maverick 27/2/2015
“Mabuza’s spokesperson, Zibonele Mncwango, did not respond to questions about whether disciplinary action was taken against implicated officials, or if the money had been recovered as recommended by the commission.” City Press 12/4/2015 The state’s R160m white elephant
“Questions were sent by this reporter to the department on how much the project would cost taxpayers, and when the trust was expected to finish the job.
“But no response had been received at the time of going to print.”
Daily Dispatch 28/4/2015 Trust wins toilet tender despite probe
“GroundUp then contacted Mr Monde Ntebe, who heads hospital communications in the health department, as well as Mr Prince Hamnca, the MEC’s spokesperson on 17 April. Neither responded to emails.” Daily Maverick 5/5/2015 GroundUp: Gauteng Hospital Shambles
“Mpumalanga culture, sport and recreation department spokesperson Sibongile Nkosi referred questions to the department of public works which manages all government construction projects.
“But public works spokesperson David Nkambule did not respond to written questions about the issue.” City Press 24/5/2015 Mpumalanga won’t budge on vanity projects
No response had been received from KSD spokesman Sonwabo Mampoza to Daily Dispatch questions at the time of writing.
Daily Dispatch 14/4/2015 Thuli orders officials to explain Mandela funds
“‘I don’t have the most recent progress report, so I can’t help you,’ he said. He referred the Daily News to the city’s communications department, which had not responded to questions by the time of publication.” Daily News 17/4/2015 Liverpool academy ditches eThekwini deal
“City Manager Mpilo Mbambisa and Mayor Ben Phila could not be reached for comment as their cellphones went to voicemail.” City Press 26/4/2015 Water Crisis for Nelson Mandela Bay
“The metro did not respond to queries.” The Times 14/5/2014 R1.2bn down the drain in meter fiasco
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn’t respond to multiple media enquiries and calls made the past few weeks about the drastic change to the SABC News schedule and why the public broadcaster cancelled the news bulletins in all vernacular languages.
Thinus Ferreira, 1/4/2015 Last TV news bulletins in other South African languages sign off for a final time on the SABC News channel after all news besides English are dumped.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago didn’t respond to a media enquiry regarding Leo Manne’s CCMA complaint.
TV with Thinus, 17/4/2015 The suspended SABC TV boss Leo Manne wants his job back; has taken his case to the CCMA over the SABC suspension process and investigation.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago could not be reached for comment by News24 immediately after the ruling. News 24 23/4/2015 Top of Form
Motsoeneng must be suspended, court rules
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago failed to respond to a media enquiry made last week asking the public broadcaster for comment as well as seeking any context and perspectives the SABC wants to share regarding its fight for audience share. News 24 1/5/2015 SABC viewership raises concern
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago was not immediately available for comment. News24 22/5/2015 R3m SABC choir sings Hlaudi’s praises
In closing: A spokesperson should always be available, ideally in person or otherwise by telephone/email when the organisation that employs him or her faces a crisis.
Let me cite a hypothetical example. Ukip accuses the BBC of bias in the coverage of its political events and goes to court to seek an interdict compelling the public broadcaster to cover a specific meeting. It goes without saying that the head of news at the BBC and the spokesperson would attend the hearing to take questions and that the BBC would have its own news team present to record the happening for subsequent broadcast. Whatever the outcome, the BBC would have issued a press statement literally within minutes of the court’s verdict.
There is no indication that Kaizer Kganyago was present at the South Gauteng High Court or available for comment on the evening of Friday May 8 when Judge Zeenat Carelse found for the Democratic Alliance in its urgent application to compel the SABC to give its elective congress live coverage on the SABC2 channel.
Here is what specialist television reporter Thinus Ferreira wrote about this: ‘On Friday and Saturday there was no formal statement from the SABC regarding the issue and the SABC’s coverage plans, and on Saturday no notification from the SABC on coverage and no programming advisory from SABC2 on the schedule changes to inform viewers of how the programming line-ups will be changing and what would be showing when.’
It was yet another example of how the SABC will do anything it can to starve the Democratic Alliance of publicity and deny the public its constitutional right of access to information which will inform its opinion at the ballot box.
As this website and Thinus Ferreira can confirm, Kganyago, more often than not, does not even acknowledge emails let alone respond to them. Why should South Africans expect anything less than world-class standards from people whose salaries are either paid in full or augmented by the taxpayer’s shilling?
IMAGE: ZANEWS Mac Puppet
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