The President and the role of the media – does he understand?

Lukhona Mnguni August 18, 2010

President Jacob Zuma displays an obscure understanding of what the media’s role is in a democratic state. The president is clearly saying that the media is currently functioning out of line with the constitution and yet he has failed so many times in a court of law to sue cartoonist Zapiro and other journalists for articles published about him.

To me this is saying that the President also doubts the integrity of the courts of this land – the supreme custodians of the constitution. Surely if the media were transgressing the constitution they would be brought to book by law enforcement agencies. The problem is that there is a view which believes that the media cooks up stories which is neither entirely true nor false: yes the media puts spice on information but they subscribe to the notion that where there is smoke there is fire.

If government officials were to walk the talk and do things right, there wouldn’t be much to worry about on their part; however, their irritation with the media is a clear indication that they want to misbehave some more and go unpunished for it. The complete arrogance of being a leader of a dominant ruling party emerged in Zuma’s words when he said, “The media must behave like everybody else… this media that says it is a watchdog for democracy was not democratically elected.” – quoted in The Times.

A closer look into these words simply says that anyone who has never been democratically elected cannot criticise members of the ANC. This is the greatest threat to our democracy I have heard from a sitting president.  Jacob Zuma seems not to grapple well the role of a ruling political party which is to provide service to the citizens and be guided by the needs of the populace and not the other way around. Is Jacob Zuma saying that civil society cannot be critical of the ANC members? Is he saying that business cannot be critical of the ANC members? The president must apologise for putting people associated with the ANC beyond reproach.

It is an open secret that the ANC realises that its inevitable decline in power and control of the country has arrived, now the only option it has is to close access to information. It is not by coincidence that the Protection of Information Bill and the Media Appeals Tribunal are being proposed simultaneously. The ANC is on a deliberate crusade to limit media freedom and take us into another Swaziland that has capacity to even ban newspapers for publishing true stories. The introduction of a totalitarian state comes in many shapes and sizes and I fear that South Africa is fast heading this way

The president ought to be reminded that the only people who are elected in this country are those in Parliament who form cabinet as well. The state, judiciary, business, media and civil society are not elected but they all form an integral part of our democratic society. The ruling party must get it through its arrogant and partly ignorant ego that it is not the custodian of democracy but merely a functionary within democracy: the populace as a collective is the custodian of democracy and the ruling party is slowly shaping towards hijacking that democracy from the people.

So Mr President please do apologise for speaking so off point about the media, they will never be accountable to your office, the media must continue to expose the rot of what has become of our government. Imagine if the media was in the government’s bed, people would never know about how badly their taxes are being embezzled- the ruling party must just fall from its pedestal, it is harming our hard won freedoms and civil liberties. And this liberation is not a property of the ANC either; it belongs to all South Africans.

About Lukhona Mnguni, the author

Lukhona Mnguni is a young man in his early 20s. He was born and brought up in a small town called Flagstaff in the Eastern Cape. He was fortunate to attend high school in a privileged area - Port Shepstone. He has held various positions in student leadership and continues to lead in the arena of youth related matters. Not so long ago he left mining engineering to go and pursue his lifetime passion and commitment to the development of poor communities and under privileged people. He is now currently studying a Bachelor of Community and Development Studies at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. Lukhona commentates mostly on the political landscape, education and community development; however anything that he finds to be of interest will not go unchallenged.

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  • hemant1234

    I like this page.

  • N Mehlomakulu

    Great article Mr. Mnguni

  • Angelique Pretorius

    MR Mnguni, why don’t you lead our youth? We need more people like you in our wonderful country, South Africa to lead us to PROSPERITY AND TO TEACH US TO SEE THE SUN SHINE OVER ALL!!!