Not all the head­lines are true

The Star Early Edition - - OPINION & ANALYSIS - DOU­GLAS GIBSON

PEO­PLE will have to be for­given for not know­ing who or what to be­lieve. Re­cent head­lines have been con­fus­ing, to say the least. They can’t all be true.

“God is on our side – Zuma says ANC will rule till Je­sus comes back;” but “ANC rid­dled with cor­rup­tion – Ramaphosa lays into the ANC’s rot­ting roots.”

Surely both th­ese lead­ers can­not be right?

Leav­ing aside for the mo­ment the ut­ter ar­ro­gance and the blas­phemy of Pres­i­dent Zuma, who in the same speech equated the birth of Je­sus Christ with the birth­day of the ANC, say­ing “They are the same: no one can sep­a­rate them,” peo­ple who are Chris­tians may have some dif­fi­culty in rec­on­cil­ing the two views.

Clearly, Zuma has learnt noth­ing from the re­sults of the lo­cal govern­ment elec­tions in Au­gust last year, when many vot­ers re­jected the ANC, quite a few re­ject­ing the pre­sump­tu­ous­ness of a politi­cian with four wives who claims the Chris­tian cloak when it suits him.

Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa seems to have taken some of the les­sons of the elec­tion to heart. Some­how his heart­felt claim that the ANC is not for sale and that life­style au­dits of ANC lead­ers should be car­ried out to root out cor­rup­tion among lead­ers and their fam­i­lies will gain ap­proval out­side but also in­side his party.

In the case of th­ese head­lines, most care­ful read­ers will be able to sort out who they pre­fer to be­lieve. But what of other con­fus­ing sit­u­a­tions cre­ated by party and govern­ment spokesper­sons?

Over the Christ­mas/New Year pe­riod we had the enor­mous brouhaha about the visit by the mayor of Tsh­wane, Solly Msi­manga, to Tai­wan. He was at­tacked in blar­ing head­lines by Clayson Monyela, a civil ser­vant whose salary is paid by the tax­payer.

Monyela, spokesper­son for the Depart­ment of In­ter­na­tional Re­la­tions and Co-op­er­a­tion (Dirco), de­clared that by trav­el­ling to Tai­wan the mayor had vi­o­lated the SA govern­ment’s One China pol­icy.

The ANC in Tsh­wane waded in and ac­cused the mayor of trea­son. When it ap­peared that our Depart­ment of Trade and In­dus­try and the min­is­ter are con­stantly pro­mot­ing ties with Tai­wan and South Africa main­tains a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of­fice in Taipei, an em­bassy in all but name, Monyela back­tracked and said the ob­jec­tion was be­cause the mayor had been awarded the free­dom of Taipei by the mayor of that city.

This was laugh­able, and Monyela and the govern­ment have not yet been able to ex­plain how on earth this could “vi­o­late” the One China pol­icy.

As an aside, govern­ment pol­icy is not the law of the land, and while it might bind the govern­ment and of­fi­cials, it does not bind you and me.

It is this sort of man­u­fac­tured out­rage and some­times even de­lib­er­ately mis­lead­ing mis­in­for­ma­tion that ends up con­fus­ing news­pa­per read­ers.

The ab­so­lute star of this in the bad old days was Pik Botha, then min­is­ter of for­eign af­fairs, who could work him­self into a man­u­fac­tured rage in a mo­ment or two, de­stroy­ing his op­po­nents in the process. It took a long while for the vot­ers to see through him and his govern­ment, and I sus­pect – and hope – that a quar­ter of a cen­tury later, vot­ers have be­come a lit­tle more dis­cern­ing and able to recog­nise rub­bish when they read it.

In this cat­e­gory might be the Time mag­a­zine ar­ti­cle last week that iden­ti­fied the 10 big­gest threats to the world this year.

Be­lieve it or not, South Africa made the list.

The fol­low­ing was the head­line: “Zuma’s South Africa is one of the big­gest risks to the world in 2017.”

Reach­ing the top 10 in any­thing would nor­mally be ex­cit­ing, but be­ing clas­si­fied as one of the great­est threats to world mar­kets is hardly the sort of ac­co­lade that in­duces pride (or pro­motes in­vest­ment, growth and jobs). The list is in­ter­est­ing be­cause it is headed by Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica and the un­pre­dictabil­ity his elec­tion brings.

China is next with its pos­si­ble over­re­ac­tion to Trump, and then fol­lows the power vacuum in Europe; a pos­si­ble pause in eco­nomic progress; tech­nol­ogy dis­rupt­ing the Mid­dle East; pol­i­tics in­ter­fer­ing with cen­tral banks; the White House ver­sus Sil­i­con Val­ley; Turkey’s on­go­ing crack­down; North Korea’s sabre-rat­tling; and fi­nally, “a strug­gling South Africa”.

We are there be­cause “the deeply un­pop­u­lar Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, be­set by cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions, is afraid to pass power to some­one he doesn’t trust.

“The re­sult­ing infighting over suc­ces­sion stalls any mo­men­tum to­wards cru­cial eco­nomic re­form in the coun­try and lim­its South Africa’s abil­ity to of­fer lead­er­ship needed to sta­bilise con­flicts in­side neigh­bour­ing coun­tries.”

It is tempt­ing to say Time’s anal­y­sis of the South African sit­u­a­tion is spot-on, which it is, but surely it is a gross ex­ag­ger­a­tion to rate us a greater risk to the world in 2017 than Isis, which does not fea­ture, and in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism, which is not in­cluded either?

In The Econ­o­mist, one of the world’s most in­flu­en­tial pub­li­ca­tions, South Africa is rated as hav­ing the sec­ond worst ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem (74 out of 76) in the Or­gan­i­sa­tion for Eco­nomic Co-op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment.

This ar­ti­cle ap­peared on the same day that we had big head­lines trum­pet­ing the ed­u­ca­tion progress made in our ma­tric ex­ams.

While be­ing over­joyed at the suc­cess of many learn­ers, one hopes that the pub­lic will not now set­tle back and ac­cept that all is right with our ed­u­ca­tion when, on the ba­sis of an au­thor­i­ta­tive sur­vey, not a thumb-suck or some­one’s bi­ased opin­ion, we have an un­sat­is­fac­tory and un­ac­cept­ably poor ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem that does not de­liver the con­sti­tu­tional prom­ise to our young peo­ple.

I hope that in 2017, read­ers, view­ers and lis­ten­ers will be wary of mis­in­for­ma­tion, of pro­pa­ganda and of man­u­fac­tured out­rage and will al­ways try to get the real story.

SA makes the top 10 list of coun­tries that are the big­gest threat to the world in 2017, ahead of Isis and in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ism

DAN­GER: Time mag­a­zine has iden­ti­fied Don­ald Trump’s Amer­ica as the big­gest threat to the world this year.

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