On 3 March 2014 The South African, published an article on the new SA Commissioner to London. Four days later, the ANC London Chapter, published its criticism on FOSA. Having read both articles, I have tried to formulate an objective view as possible. No view is ever 100% objective, but give me some credit - I have tried. I am not sure who actually wrote the ANC article, but as Mr Xolani Xala’ picture is posted next to the article with no further reference within, I just have to assume that he is the author.
One headline messed up
The newspaper headlined the article with “Controversy surrounds new SA High Commissioner as he finally takes office”. I think it does not carry into the article correctly. The initial idea generated in the mind of the reader is that the appointed has happened with a lot of controversy. Yet, this is not true. Although some controversy surrounds the life of Mr Mlaba (We’ll get to that later), it is not directly related to the appointed. Actually for most of us, his arrival at the Madiba memorial service was the first we even heard of the appointment being made official. The South Africsn government could have handled things better, but I would not have called it controversial. Therefore the headline would have read better it it was simply “New SA High Commissioner takes office”. I am sure most of us readers would have been happy to still read the article.
Compared to the standard low level of quality journalism in local papers and tabloids we UK residents have become accustomed to, the article is generally well and factually structured.
A joke misread?
The article ends with the paragraph.
But Mlaba didn’t have to face any prison time for his alleged actions – that is if you don’t call being stuck on the British Isles for the next five years a fate worse than imprisonment.
Was this intended as a joke? If a joke, maybe one that can only be understood once embedded in British life and undestanding British humour?
Whatever the case, I think this undid what was in general a factually reported article. It seemed to have exposed his political view and leak it over his journalistic view. Mr Sanderson is a journalist, he should have known better.
A controversy that hangs around
The newspaper also stated:
Obed Mlaba has always rejected the allegations, saying that he was not personally involved in the act of awarding tenders. A report published after the findings, however, implicated the former Durban Mayor in “tender rigging, fraud and corruption” along with other senior city officials, amounting to a total of over R2 billion in suspicious irregularities.
That sounds very nasty, but as a person in the public eye, the High Commisioner his past to be scrutinised. That is part of what responsible journalism entails (bar the incorrect headline mentioned earlier).
Unfortunately, this background setting does haunt the appointment. There are still people asking questions about his term as mayor back in South Africa. Where they are rightfully asking questions or not, is of little consequence, but the newspaper can therefore not be vilified for saying he is haunted by his past.
For a moral/ethical, Mr Mlaba has a number of choices
- If he is really guilty, he should set himself free, by admitting his wrong doings. Remember the truth shall set you free.
- Even if he is quilty, we South Africans can forgive the past, and allow him to serve in this post with dignity and make a success of it (as if #3).
- If he is not quilty he should carry on, making the best of his post as HC and serve South Africa (not the ANC) with honour.
I think Mr Mlaba has done a great job reading a difficult piece from Joshua at the memorial service. He has impressed me. I am willing to give him a second chance.
An immature rant from the ANC
The ANC response kicks off nearly immediately with a highly emotional rant (emphasis mine):
The African National Congress London interim Branch is outraged, but not surprised, by the shameless, disgraceful antics perpetrated by The South African paper in particular their editor Sertan Sanderson’s sensationalism in its report on our beloved newly appointed High Commissioner. Writing an article using his picture taken when he was making a monumental speech at the historic gathering, stating that he is haunted by controversy and corruption literally undermines not just His Excellency but disrespects’ the momentous occasion.
I am afraid, Mr Xala has mixed up articles in the newspaper. As he has not bothered to list the articles he was referring to, I have no possibility of crediting him with being correct. In my view the referenced newspaper article briefly mentioned Mr Mlaba being at the Madiba memorial service. (There is another full length article regarding the memorial service, which just briefly mentions Mr Mlaba and contains no disrepect to the momentous occasion.
Sensationalisam? I think Mr Xala’s response far better befits the term of sensationalism than anything in the newspaper.
Beloved? I wonder if I walk down the streets hof is city (and the one where I grew up in), and ask people if they love Mlaba, how many would say yes? How many would actually know who I am talking about.
No factual statements up to this point in the article and not many in the next couple of paragraphs until it got to
At the Abbey he was greeted by a throng of local ANC supporters and South African Community
True, he was greeted by the South African community, but I have not seen one person proclaiming themselves to be ANC, merely just as South Africans.
Calling South Africans in the diaspora
I am answering to the call, as a South African in the wide world.
To say this is not good for our rainbow nation is an understatement, it is actually counterproductive to our civil society and undermines the democratic processes in our beloved country and is designed to destroy investor confidence. We will, therefore, continue to call on all South Africans particular in the diaspora, including all formations of civil society (business, labour, churches, youth formations, and women organisations), and democrats at large who share our sentiment on this issue to boycott the newspaper, cancel their subscriptions and stop sending them statements as we have already done 15 months ago, and not to advertise in the South African anymore.
At this point the response now smells of immaturity. Without eny factual responses leading up to that point, this is but the voice of a troublemaker instead of a peace maker. I can only guess as to why Mr Xala not getting along with the newspaper, but if they are true to journalism they will not bend to the will of the ANC. If that is why you stopped sending them statements, then it fits in perfectly with the unqualified response.
We have to stamp them out before they mutate and destabilise our beloved nation.
As a South African in the diaspora, I am now calling upon you Mr Xala. The struggle is long past, the TRC has long gone. Many have forgiven, but have you? I am not sure. Who are you serving? The people and the country? The ANC or yourself?
It is high time we reviewed our policies and affiliations with Organisations that “claim” to have our beloved country’s best interest yet stab the leadership behind their backs.
I think Mr Xala has to be careful what he utters. He might need to clean his house first, before pointing fingers at others.
we cannot, we cannot, tolerate these apartheid tendencies in any shape or form.
The sign of the weak is those that look to blame the past for their inadequacies of shaping the future for the better of all us. Apartheid is gone in South Africa. Anyone who truly has the country at heart will look towards the future and build.
Mr Mlaba, welcome to London, please serve our country well. Remember that you serve the people, not the government, a political party or your own pocket.
Mr Sanderson might want to think twice about mixing political views into journalism without stating it up front. He is working for a newspaper that is supposed to be neutral.
And Mr Xala, please, you need to grow up.
— Ex unitate vires