Rush to court didn't help Cyril
Salacious: The deputy president's immediate response to allegations about his sex life was to panic
There is no doubt there is a dirty tricks campaign under way to torpedo Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa's bid for the ANC presidency, but he is not exactly blameless in this becoming a scandal.
As The Times yesterday published a series of articles on the fake-news matrix facilitated by public relations firm Bell Pottinger in the service of the Gupta propaganda empire, "white monopoly capital"-related accounts were in overdrive trying to give traction to the "Ramaphosa sex scandal".
The deputy president is fighting to minimise damage to his campaign for the ANC leadership after the publication of his private e-mails suggesting he had multiple affairs.
Had Ramaphosa still been passing his time being a high roller in business, his private correspondence would be no business of ours, and would not have seen the light of day.
The fact that he is the deputy president and is also contesting the ANC's top job essentially surrenders the right to privacy that ordinary citizens enjoy.
Ramaphosa's response to The Sunday Independent's intention to expose his private correspondence, which they claim indicates he had affairs with eight women, was imprudent.
He attempted to interdict the newspaper from publishing the e-mails on the basis that it was an invasion of his privacy.
For a politician in his position, perception matters. And for any ordinary citizen who is not privy to the facts, it appeared that Ramaphosa had something to hide.
That he sought intervention of the Independent Group owner Iqbal Surve to stop the story being published instead of responding to the allegations creates the impression that Ramaphosa panicked under pressure.
Media owners ought not to have influence on editorial decision-making.
The fact that Ramaphosa requested assistance from someone who is openly backing his competitor Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma means he was desperate and willing to compromise editorial independence.
The third problem is the fact that there is no outright denial from Ramaphosa that the information is fake.
He has provided an explanation for his connection to some of the people, saying they were part of a group that he and his wife supported financially. But he does not claim the exchanges in the e-mails are fabricated.
Ramaphosa's responses effectively verify that the e-mail account does belong to him and that the information was obtained illegally.
Ramaphosa told the Sunday Times that he had an affair with a Limpopo doctor that ended eight years ago.
He claimed state institutions hacked into his private e-mails, and said he would ask the inspector-general of intelligence to investigate this and suggested that some e-mails may have been "doctored".
He also questioned whether his private life was in the public interest. This might be part of the damage-control messaging or an effort to justify the relationships.
The Sunday Independent story turned out to be rather underwhelming after the hype created by the Saturday night legal action.
The editor, Steven Motale, promised that more would be revealed over time.
The presence in court of Andile Mngxitama and Kenny Kunene, who have been linked to the Gupta-sponsored fake news matrix, revealed a common agenda between the state capture network and the hit against Ramaphosa.
Kunene's fake news website, WeeklyXpose, published further salacious details, including erotic videos from one of the women allegedly having an affair with the deputy president.
On Sunday Ramaphosa vowed to intensify his presidential campaign in the face of the attacks.
But it will be up to ANC delegates to decide if the claims of Ramaphosa's romantic and sexual dalliances are true or not, and if they are, whether they compromise his ability to lead the organisation.
ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu suggested in a radio interview yesterday that it was the restoration of the ANC's values rather than personal morality that mattered.
"If we wanted a pope, we would have gone to the Vatican," Mthembu said.
Cosatu, which is firmly behind Ramaphosa's campaign for the presidency, wrote off the allegations as a "non scandal" and said it refused to be the "moral police".
As was the case previously, integrity and morality are easily sacrificed on the altar of ANC presidential races.