The Sun­day Times’at­tempt to smear busi­ness­men Kenny Kunene and Gay­ton McKen­zie has failed, writes

The Sunday Independent - - DISPATCHES -

IN re­cent times, the Sun­day Times has run two sto­ries in suc­ces­sive weeks on the per­sons of Kenny Kunene and Gay­ton McKen­zie, in which it is at pains to re­duce them to what they have termed the new Gup­tas.

I am not sure how much tra­di­tional and re­spon­si­ble jour­nal­ism is ac­corded to re­alise re­search be­fore the Sun­day Times, which in­creas­ingly con­firms a tabloid sta­tus, runs these soap opera head­lines.

The Sun­day Times, owned by Tiso Black­star, for­merly the Times Media Group, is clearly Gup­taob­sessed and has cho­sen to cry wolf on this name ev­ery time. I guess the Gupta name sells.

Let us there­fore at­tempt to un­der­stand a few things in ask­ing who Kunene and McKen­zie are, why do the Sun­day Times do this, and why the “new Gupta” claim?

Who are Kenny Kunene and Gay­ton McKen­zie?

This ques­tion for some can be an­swered in many ways be­cause of their con­fessed and known his­tory, which re­ally makes up a short pe­riod of their lives.

For some, Kunene and McKen­zie are “cur­rent crim­i­nals”. They are not for­mer con­victed crim­i­nals, who served their time and be­came fully re­ha­bil­i­tated and con­trib­ute to­wards our so­ci­ety in mean­ing­ful ways.

They are mere crim­i­nals. They are not fam­ily men who daily ply their con­firmed le­git­i­mate trades, who do well as fel­low SA ci­ti­zens.

Kunene and McKen­zie are pri­vate in­di­vid­u­als, like all of us.

They are South African ci­ti­zens ac­tive in their own right, yet their so­cial stand­ing in so­ci­ety af­fords them the sta­tus of “celebri­ties” to vary­ing de­grees.

The lat­ter, how­ever, does not deny them a right to liv­ing pri­vate lives as the re­cent claim ad­vanced of the Deputy Pres­i­dent Cyril Ramaphosa, also a wealthy busi­ness­man, so­cialite, se­nior politi­cian and, for some, also a celebrity.

The Sun­day Times clearly sees Kunene and McKen­zie through this snap­shot poor and con­ve­nient lens of be­ing only crim­i­nals, be­cause if they must ever ad­mit to who Kunene and McKen­zie re­ally are in their for­mi­da­ble sense of busi­ness own­er­ship, undeniable cre­ation of jobs, and mean­ing­ful roles as busi­ness peo­ple, it would have no story to run.

The Sun­day Times will never tell you these men have never bid or won any ten­der of the R500 bil­lion the state ex­pands on an an­nual ba­sis on undeniable es­sen­tially white interest.

It is the most dif­fi­cult thing for the Sun­day Times and its own­ers to ad­mit that Kunene and McKen­zie are wealthy busi­ness peo­ple in their own right.

They are al­ways tagged with their past crim­i­nal sta­tus when the Sun­day Times can­not tag Alan Knott-Craig for his lies about in­vent­ing a please-call plat­form.

The Sun­day Times never tells us how Jo­hann Ru­pert made his money in an un­holy cross­breed of schemes and deals that would raise the hairs on any­one’s neck.

It would not re­motely lay bare the apartheid theft that made bil­lion­aires of those today wor­shipped as busi­ness moguls and the barom­e­ter of eth­i­cal busi­ness man­age­ment and own­er­ship.

So for those who still do not know: Kunene and McKen­zie are vested in le­gal busi­ness in di­verse sec­tors span­ning min­ing, media, com­modi­ties and ser­vices in­dus­tries.

The Sun­day Times runs a story on McKen­zie be­ing trained by Rus­sia to be a spy. We are not af­forded the cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence in due re­search to prove these das­tardly claims. We are sold these fic­ti­tious and scur­rilous ru­mour­mon­ger­ing be­cause Kunene and McKen­zie as in­di­vid­u­als, and a col­lec­tive of broth­er­hood, have de­fied the nor­mal of what black peo­ple are as­signed, by a cor­rupt and de­praved racist mind. The Sun­day Times this week runs an­other story of how Kunene and McKen­zie are ap­par­ently body hug­ging bud­dies with the pres­i­dent and have in this sea­son come to di­rect the pres­i­dent in choices.

They ex­tend this to sala­cious claims of “Zuma’s new pals in R5bn gas deal”. It takes com­fort in claims of know­ing where the pair re­cently trav­elled in pur­suit of a gas busi­ness deal in Rus­sia. It is re­ally friv­o­lous to tell us Kunene and McKen­zie flew first class, and stayed at the Ritz Carl­ton.

Is it un­usual for busi­ness peo­ple who are wealthy to travel first class if they’re not us­ing their own char­tered planes? Why is it im­por­tant where they stayed? Does the Sun­day Times re­port on where Jo­hann Ru­pert, Christo Wiese, Stephen Kos­eff, or Brian Joffe re­cently flew, on what deal, if they char­tered a plane and where they stayed and who they met?

This ob­ses­sion to force-feed us a diet of makeshift de­tails con­firms the shal­low­ness of Sun­day Times jour­nal­ism on the one hand but, on the other, the con­vic­tion that black peo­ple can­not and should not travel first class, stay in the Ritz Carl­ton or cut a R5bn deal re­gard­less of the com­mod­ity.

To crown it off, they have black jour­nal­ists’ names at­tached to the story, as if that will hide the real is­sue of white interest.

I guess Kunene and McKen­zie are be­ing spied on and fol­lowed by un­seen forces. Are these also in­tel­li­gence forces at work, as Ramaphosa claimed for his per­sonal in­dis­cre­tions?

Can the Sun­day Times tell us when their favourite busi­ness peo­ple had meet­ings with pres­i­dents, cab­i­net min­is­ters, or peo­ple of po­lit­i­cal power? Last time I checked, in a democ­racy it is not against the law to meet or en­gage any po­lit­i­cal fig­ure if you a busi­nessper­son or a mem­ber of so­ci­ety.

If it’s not a crime nor ge­net­i­cally cor­rupt to have meet­ings with politi­cians, why is it as­sumed that some can only have a cor­rupt in­ter­ac­tions and oth­ers can only have pure in­ter­ac­tions that is good for the greater good?

Why do the Sun­day Times do this?

It be­comes im­por­tant to ask: what ex­tends the Sun­day Times such a right to cast Kunene and McKen­zie as con­trol­ling of ap­par­ently the Min­is­ter of State Se­cu­rity David Mahlobo as hav­ing run around to cut deals for them? There is a fun­da­men­tal mis­trust of an ANCled gov­ern­ment in which it is un­crit­i­cally ac­cepted that all ANC lead­ers and min­is­ters are cor­rupt. This, com­bined with the cho­sen his­tory of Kunene and McKen­zie, who never de­nied their past. This com­bi­na­tion, re­gard­less of its flawed state, fu­els the rhetoric of these wild claims.

These claims, be­sides be­ing base­less, are es­sen­tially racist in its on­to­log­i­cal foot­print, ine­bri­ated in its praxis and poor in its truth. In an­swer­ing the ques­tion as to why the Sun­day Times, a white-owned media house, es­sen­tially ex­ist­ing in ser­vice of white interest and hege­mony may ar­ro­gate such lat­i­tude, is to un­der­stand the fun­da­men­tal as­pect of a racist media out­let.

It will only trust those blacks who dance to its tune, and are good for serv­ing its interest. It is the death de­fy­ing power of racism that con­tin­ues to ex­ist in South Africa, not in statu­tory def­i­ni­tion of in­sti­tu­tional racism, but in pres­ence of struc­tural racism nev­er­the­less.

Why the New Gupta Claim?

The Sun­day Times then re­sorts to re­nam­ing Kunene and McKen­zie of be­ing the new Gup­tas.

This is again not in­no­cent or nec­es­sar­ily in de­fence of South Africa, but stands in the same ilk of how peo­ple like the SAA chair­per­son Dudu Myeni was given a dou­ble-bar­relled last name.

It stands in the tra­di­tion of in­sult­ing peo­ple by as­so­ci­at­ing them in or­ches­trated crafti­ness of an iden­tity the Sun­day Times has rub­bished and stripped of any hu­man agency.

The Sun­day Times has long ago made it­self the face of the de­hu­man­is­ing the Gupta Fam­ily. For the record, the Gupta fam­ily is a nat­u­ralised black fam­ily who lives in SA and has ben­e­fited and con­trib­uted to the eco­nomic land­scape of the coun­try.

In the clas­si­cally con­di­tioned so­cial con­science of South Africa, the Gup­tas evoke the worst of crim­i­nals, the thieves who be­long to SA, the crooks who in­vented state cap­ture.

De­spite the va­lid­ity of these claims not hav­ing been tested, the mileage of this or­ches­trated cam­paign has found res­o­nance and the Sun­day Times knows ex­actly how much is vested in craft­ing that nar­ra­tive.

Its much-made of Gup­taleaks, known from the start as not legally ad­mis­si­ble in a demo­cratic en­vi­ron­ment of jus­tice, but ped­dled for weeks snip­pets of newsad­van­tage tit-bits de­fam­ing peo­ple it could never charge in a court of law.

We know the cam­paign fell flat when the eighth mo­tion of no con­fi­dence also failed.

To there­fore frame Kunene and McKen­zie as a “new Gupta” hor­ror of scare­crow, is the Sun­day Times’ failed at­tempt to smear them. It is their ver­sion of dirty tricks. It is not only to smear them but also to con­tinue the long night of blis­ter­ing un­founded at­tacks on the person of Pres­i­dent Zuma, and some in his cab­i­net like Mahlobo.

The as­so­ci­a­tion with the Gup­tas is the poi­son that is pa­raded as who all black busi­ness as­pires to be.

The toxic na­ture of this claim at­tests a hid­den, but glar­ingly vis­i­ble for the ob­serv­ing eye, claim that black busi­ness peo­ple ex­ist to con­trol black politi­cians in cor­rupt prac­tice and in de­fi­ance of any sem­blance of re­gard for the law.

This Gupta la­bel, in­voked, has as a fun­da­men­tal aim, to blan­ket ev­ery black busi­ness­man as fun­da­men­tally cor­rupt, in­nately de­praved, and in­tox­i­cated not to con­duct him/her with re­spect for the due laws.

Thus the “Gupta la­bel” is an in­dict­ment. Iit has as its rudi­men­tary aim the de­nial of fu­ture busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties for Kunene and McKen­zie to fur­ther grow and ex­pand their busi­ness in­ter­ests – be­cause the au­dac­ity of Kunene and McKen­zie to have re­mained loyal one-to-the-other in broth­er­hood, an­chored in a fun­da­men­tal pur­suit of help­ing other blacks who de­test the black di­a­mond sta­tus as an un­ac­cept­able thorn in the side of the Sun­day Times and its own­ers.

Kunene and McKen­zie must be stopped, and the only way to do so is to de­clare them eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal ver­min, mean­ing they must be an­ni­hi­lated and not af­forded to live, and who­ever can do this will be cel­e­brated.

For some of us, Kunene and McKen­zie are re­spon­si­ble busi­ness peo­ple who have worked hard for what they own today, they epit­o­mise the in­de­fati­ga­ble spirit of the African who re­fuses to let colo­nial­ism of special kind de­fine them in eter­nity.

They ev­i­dence a hope that some teenager has in a Hei­dedal, Koffie­fontein, Kanya­mazane or Lenyenye.

Nei­ther of them are per­fect, but they are he­roes to the youth, and their au­dac­ity must be cel­e­brated. For those black jour­nal­ists, Mzi­likazi Wa Afrika and Than­dux­olo Jika, we don’t blame you – we un­der­stand you have been con­di­tioned not to trust a black man who has a plan and has made some money and lives good, this right is only for whites, whom you don’t ques­tion.

Their pres­ence sim­ply don’t trou­ble you be­cause it’s nat­u­ral for whites to have at­tained their wealthy by honourable means and they should not be ques­tioned – but that black, don’t trust him, he made his money by cor­rupt means.

We hold the hope that you too will one day awake from your wil­ful slum­ber and re­alise you must cre­ate your own Ind­aba news­pa­per as Tiyo Soga did in the 19th cen­tury.

Please af­ford Kunene and McKen­zie to fol­low the likes of Tiyo Soga, to defy the iden­tity that colo­nial­ism shack­led him with and left a legacy we still

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