Our commitment is to unbiased news, not to any faction of the ANC
It ought not to come as a surprise to anyone that the final stretch in the race to succeed President Jacob Zuma as ANC leader is mired in claims of smear campaigns against some of the leading candidates.
By stubbornly refusing to allow for an open presidential contest, in which candidates compete mainly on the grounds of policy proposals and having their track records in public office scrutinised, the ANC effectively pushes the battle underground - making it susceptible to the world of spooks and other underworld characters.
It was the case in the run-up to the 2007 national conference; it happened again in 2012 and we are likely to experience more of the dirty wars as December approaches.What is of great concern, however, is that despite the experiences of 2007 and 2012 having shown the kind of severe damage that is done to state institutions when they are dragged into factional party skirmishes, our politicians and senior public servants in the security cluster have not done much to shield such institutions from that kind of abuse this time around.
Instead, no less a person than Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa - theoretically the second-most powerful politician in the country - has accused elements in the state security department of being behind what he terms a smear campaign aimed at preventing him from running for the ANC presidency, and later, if the party wins the 2019 polls, becoming the head of state.
A number of cabinet ministers are also claiming to be receiving death threats in what looks like an intimidation campaign aimed at forcing them to back this or that ANC camp.In this toxic environment it is extremely important that the media strives against taking sides and is careful not to be used by any of the factions to further their ambitions.
As one of the widely read publications in the country, the Sunday Times is often a target of people who seek to plant stories that would paint their opponents in a bad light. This makes it necessary that, whereas we consider it our duty to break stories that are of value to our readers and country, we always take precautionary measures to ensure that we are not being manipulated.
Our coverage of the story involving Ramaphosa and his alleged string of infidelities last week led to some critics claiming that this and another newspaper had taken different sides in the ANC conflict.Far from it. We saw it as our duty to follow the story after it had broken on social media and the deputy president had issued two media statements denying the allegations and claiming that it was a smear campaign. We then sought an interview with him and others involved in order to take the story forward. If in future it emerges that the deputy president was not honest in his responses, we will have no difficulty in writing the story.
Our interest is to provide our readers with the most accurate news possible, without favouring any individual or institution.
Of course over the years we have not always got it right. But our loyalty will always be to our readers and journalism - not to any political party or its factions.
Where there is any wrongdoing to be exposed, we will do so without fear or favour in keeping with a Sunday Times tradition that goes back decades. We do so without worrying if the story would be beneficial to Zuma, Ramaphosa or any of the other camps.To us, the current political story, like all others, cannot be reduced to a narrative of "the good guys" versus "the bad guys". It is for this reason that, over the past three months, we have sought to interview all of the ruling party's candidates.
We have featured Ramaphosa, Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and ANC treasurer Zweli Mkhize. We plan to do more in the coming weeks, including frontrunner Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma who has, unfortunately, been unavailable for interviews in the past.