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Lies won't save SA, Zuma

Justice Malala | 2013-09-16 06:41:34.0

I am glad that President Jacob Zuma has finally joined the rest of us ordinary South Africans. I am glad that, like the rest of us, he gets depressed. Like the rest of us, he now often contemplates other shores when he opens his newspapers in the morning.

The rest of us have been in this state for a very long time, as corruption, poor governance, lack of delivery, crime and lack of leadership have ravaged our country. Many of us have hung our heads in shame as inequality has increased and unemployment has remained an immovable mountain.

Many of us have shaken our heads in despair as our leaders have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

So it was a great pleasure to hear that Zuma understands what the rest of us are going through.

Last Tuesday, the president told a group of journalism students that the South African media's reporting is so negative that he feels like fleeing this country at times.

"When I go out, people envy South Africans, they wish they were South Africans because they say we are doing so well, we are succeeding . they love it.

"But when I am in South Africa, every morning you feel like you must leave this country because the reporting concentrates on the opposite of the positive," said Zuma.

As usual, Zuma is mind-bogglingly wrong.

Firstly, South Africa is what it is. The media cannot make up a false reality because politicians want them to do so. A politician may deliver food hampers to the poor in a Tlokwe informal settlement - as some have been doing lately because there is a by-election there on Wednesday - but that is not news.

That is their job. Politicians said they will deliver houses to the poor, and they should. They said to the electorate: "Give us your taxes and your votes, and we shall build roads, schools and bridges."

The delivery of these things is what they should do every day.

Zuma seems to expect that we should all bow, genuflect and kiss his hand for doing his job. He misses the point totally.

If he continues to think this way he will expect loud applause and a front page headline story every time he gets out of bed.

The people of South Africa woke up last Monday to the news that two young girls had been killed, and possibly raped.

I am not sure how Zuma expects us to report this story.

We South Africans have one of the highest rates of unsolved rape cases in the world.

Zuma expects editors to smile and not highlight this massive problem in our society.

Yet the masses cannot be fooled by such attempts to sugar-coat reality. It is their children, their sisters, who are being raped.

It is their brothers who are being mugged on their way from work. It is their grandmothers who have to care for motherless children in Umbumbulu.

It is an insult to these people to think that because Zuma says there is good news their reality becomes different.

It is an insult to say that because the situation is worse in Zimbabwe, and because Zimbabweans are literally dying to live here, then those who live here should shut up and not complain about his shortcomings.

The world is what it is. Journalists merely report it.

If politicians did not build one man a R206-million house in Nkandla with taxpayers' money then journalists would not report it. If Dina Pule did not use taxpayers' money to fly her concubine around the world then journalists would not write about it. This is what happens in a country where, 19 years after democracy dawned, poverty still runs rampant.

The media shines light on many corners politicians would rather keep dark. By exposing the Pules of this world, the media strengthens democracy. Only the world's dictatorships have the sort of media that Zuma now wants.

If Zuma wants that kind of media, then he should do all of us a favour and move to Zimbabwe, Russia or Syria. Those countries have exactly the kinds of media he wants - and look at just what disasters they are. It may all seem like a joke, but Zuma threw in an interesting and dangerous thought to his musings on the media.

He asked: "Who do you think in reality you serve when reporting: the interests of the public that you claim, as the media you stand for, or the interests of the owners and managers of the paper?"

He is saying that the independent media is running a negative campaign against his government on behalf of its owners. What will he do next?

Like so many others before him, he might be tempted to try to starve independent media of government advertising and divert it to acolytes such as the Gupta media empire.

That is what happens in banana republics.

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