The ANC’s deputy secretary general, Jessie Duarte, displayed all the symptoms of political ignorance of the media when she chastised an eNCA TV news reporter this week.
Her outburst was symptomatic of the complete lack of understanding most politicians have of the mass media.
And the more politicians come under pressure, the more desperate they become and the more desperate they are, their strategy becomes attack, attack attack.
History has shown conclusively that a clear strategy of despots, narcissists and the corrupt is to rampage against the mass media.
History has equally shown that no world leader has actually won a war against the media.
Jessie Duarte looked like she took a direct lead from Donald Trump with her finger-waving diatribe this week. And with others in the ANC also having a go at the media, it seems as though our politicians are learning much more from the US than using those iniquitous and thoroughly unnecessary blue-light brigades with impunity.
ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte attacking eNCA journalist Samekele Maseko. Courtesy of eNCA/DStv403
I am constantly bewildered at the ignorance of our politicians. An ignorance born out of a belief that the mass media are not mouthpieces for voters. An ignorance born out of the insane notion that the media represent the enemy of the state. The enemy of anyone in political power.
When in fact, if they took the trouble to understand the media, politicians could make their lives a lot easier by engaging with them, quite simply on the basis that clarity comes from dealing with someone you know.
This is vital, if only from the point of view that if a politician has a relationship with a journalist, they can be sure that nothing will be printed without that journalist taking the trouble to make contact to get the other side of the story.
It doesn’t and shouldn’t be a corrupt relationship. Just two people who have met once or twice and exchanged telephone numbers.
Frankly, in my opinion, there have only been two South African politicians in the past few decades that have understood how to deal with the media. One is Nelson Mandela who took the trouble to visit all the major media houses and greet hundreds of journalists.
The other was Helen Zille, when she was Mayor of Cape Town. She was constantly available to the media, day and night, and garnered excellent relations with many of them. Regrettably, not long after she became premier of the Western Cape her power turned to arrogance, followed by a number of wild statements that carried very little forethought.
Most politicians in this country, especially those in the governing party, have succumbed to corruption and in defence have placed themselves on what they see to be untouchable pedestals, completely forgetting that they are servants of the people and not the other way round.
Unfortunately for them, while this high and mighty attitude might work with probably far too many voters and businesses needing their patronage, the mass media are not fooled and continue to act as the voice of the people when dealing with politicians. Who the media, quite rightly, regard as the servants of the people.
In the contest between politicians and the media, the score is very much in favour of the media when it comes to court cases. The majority of threats by politicians to sue the media come to nothing once their lawyers have informed them of their folly.
Desperate politicians resort to a desperate form of bluster. This week, Jessie Duarte gave us a fine example.
Chris Moerdyk (@chrismoerdyk ) is a marketing analyst and advisor and owner of Moerdyk Marketing with many years of experience in marketing and the media as well as serving as non-executive director and chairman of companies.
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