Thu Oct 27 05:02:53 SAST 2016

The Big Read: Hired guns shoot down truth

Justice Malala | 03 October, 2016 08:29
Justice Malala
Image by: The Times

Every grubby little dictator in the world needs a hired gun. Because they are so discredited, they need a sheen of respectability.

So they rope in pseudo-intellectuals, armed with the language of respectability plus a fair dose of victimhood, to give their cause legitimacy. Throw in a foundation or an institute. Find an executive director with the gift of the gab. Make sure no one knows who funds these entities.

This is how you create doubt about the allegations against you and, better still, about your critics. Instead of your communications department denying your deeds, a pseudo-intellectual is always ready to dispute allegations against you with some smart comment on television that is based on half-truths and an ad hominem attack.

Take our good friend Omar al-Bashir of Sudan, for example. You will remember him from last year when he attended the AU summit in Sandton. Bashir is accused of murdering more than 300000 of his fellow black Sudanese. The International Criminal Court has a warrant out for his arrest. South Africa, as a signatory to the Rome Statute, was obliged to arrest him and send him off to The Hague for trial.

Instead of doing that, though, we did everything in our power to protect this grubby dictator. We broke our own laws to ensure that he escaped back to his country, where he continues to wreak havoc.

If you were around during that debacle you would have noticed that Bashir did not defend himself. There was always a combative man in a suit running around casting doubt about the ICC's motives in trying to bring Bashir to court.

As the Mail & Guardian wrote: "When there is any controversy about the ICC and its attempts to prosecute Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes, David Hoile is sure to appear.

"This week the man who once wore 'Hang Mandela' paraphernalia in the UK in the 1980s shared a platform with African leaders at the African Union summit in Sandton and was widely quoted, as he often is, as an independent expert on Sudan and a critic of the ICC."

Is he an expert, though, or just a hired gun for a dictator? As the M&G wrote, officially Hoile is the director of the European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council.

"According to its website, the council was established as the British-Sudanese Public Affairs Council, in London in 1998. It claims to be privately funded but provides no information about who its funders are."

Look at the modus operandi here. This "benevolent" organisation says nothing about Bashir and his culpability. It merely attacks the methods and motives of those who want to bring him to justice. It creates doubt in the mind of the public. The truth is of no consequence.

This method of whitewashing the powerful and their murky connections has arrived in South Africa. Over the past few months we have seen the launching of foundations, online publications and movements aimed at protecting President Jacob Zuma and his friends, the notorious Gupta family. Mzwanele Jimmy Manyi, who once said there is an over-supply of coloureds in Western Cape, has launched his Decolonisation Foundation. Andile Mngxitama has launched Black First Land First, which has miraculously got enough money to place expensive adverts in Sunday newspapers defending Zuma against attack.

Whenever an issue arises involving Zuma or the Guptas these two are the first to jump in and defend them on the grounds that the issue is one of race (or transformation) and not about Zuma. We do not even get to the issue. Before you get there you are painted as either racist, a lackey of the West or a member of the Stellenbosch Mafia. These foundations or movements - all of them are essentially one-person shows cloaked in the language of foundations and organisations - are not interested in truth or accountability.

At the same time, Twitter accounts of prominent journalists who have exposed Zuma and the Guptas are being cloned and used to spread lies and slander. It happened to journalists Ranjeni Munusamy and Alec Hogg over the past two weeks. Others will be similarly hacked or cloned. The war is becoming sinister and dirty.

And so after years of seeing his spokesmen leave because no one can spin the many scandals around him, it seems that Zuma and his acolytes have tired of working with the media. His friends the Guptas have brought in the London PR firm of Bell Pottinger to try to whitewash the dirt that falls off them with their every deal and action.

But truth is a terrible thing. You can try to hide it. You can try to subvert it. You can try to suppress it. You can even try to muddy the waters so that people cannot see the real thing in the midst of all the dirt. But ultimately the truth will out. No matter who you are and what you do, no matter how many foundations and spin doctors you employ, openly or through the back door, the truth will out. And the people will punish you.


If you have an opinion you would like to share on this article, please send us an e-mail to the Times LIVE iLIVE team. In the mean time, click here to view the Times LIVE iLIVE section.