ANC media onslaught fear is partly justified, partly paranoid – Business Day, 7 September 2015

THE war of ideas must be fought like a real war, says the African National Congress (ANC) in one of the "discussion documents" for its national general council meeting next month.

By John Kane-Berman 

THE war of ideas must be fought like a real war, says the African National Congress (ANC) in one of the "discussion documents" for its national general council meeting next month.

The operation of the organisation’s "war room" must be "scaled up" if it is to deal effectively with the growing "propaganda onslaught" against it in "all" the media.

That the ANC is getting bad press cannot be denied. It is now almost impossible to keep up with the torrent of reports of corruption and/or incompetence and/or destruction in one organ of state after another.

President Jacob Zuma gets such bad press that the editor of the Citizen recently apologised for being party to the media’s "implicit agenda" to oppose him.

When Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa flew to Japan in an aircraft supposedly hired from the Gupta family, there was an immediate assumption in news reports that this was yet another example of cronyism at work.

Unfortunately for the ANC, it is so mired in cronyism, corruption, and cover-ups that it has only itself to blame if reports sometimes veer towards a presumption of guilt.

Yet in other respects the ANC’s discussion document on the "battle of ideas" is paranoid. Correctly, the document depicts this as a battle between the "neoliberal paradigm" on one hand and the "national democratic revolution" on the other. However, it then goes on to complain that all media have ganged up to launch attacks on the national democratic revolution.

This is nonsense.

Even though commitment to the national democratic revolution is routinely reaffirmed by the ANC, most commentators ignore it.

A few others mention it only to pooh-pooh it. They do so despite the fact that the growing spate of racial and other dirigiste legislation finding its way on to the statute books is more in keeping with the ANC’s long-standing revolutionary agenda than with the now-moribund National Development Plan.

The myth persists in the media that the ANC "talks left and acts right". With the main exception of the National Treasury, however, it more often than not both "talks left" and "acts left".

A recent article in the Economist to the effect that the left’s grip on government has grown ever tighter since Zuma became president was a striking exception to the conventional wisdom of the opinionists.

In line with playing down the national democratic revolution, most commentators ignore the influence within the ANC of the South African Communist Party.

But to talk about the ANC without referring to the influence of the communists is like talking about the old National Party without paying any attention to the role of the Afrikaner Broederbond.

Liberal commentators have generally been reluctant to point to communist influence for fear of being labelled McCarthyites or accused of hunting for "reds under the bed". The previous South African government’s use of the communist label to smear opponents who were not communists has made most South African liberals doubly cautious about drawing attention to communist influence.

This hesitation may now be starting to change, thanks to the brazen interventions in the economy by communist politicians, among them Rob Davies and Jeremy Cronin. The ANC has for too long got away with depicting itself as a noble party for liberation. It is time more people faced up to the grim truth that for a long time it has also had, and is, calmly pursuing another agenda.

• Kane-Berman is a consultant at the South African Institute of Race Relations

Read the article in Business Day here