An open letter in reply to the claims to the contrary by Ferial Haffajee and Marianne Thamm
OPEN LETTER TO FERIAL HAFFAJEE AND MARIANNE THAMM OF THE DAILY MAVERICK
Date: Friday, 30 July 2021
Dear Ms. Haffajee and Ms. Thamm,
RE: YOUR VARIOUS STRATCOM-LIKE PROPAGANDA PIECES FALSELY TRYING TO LINK ME TO SO CALLED ‘INSURRECTION’ AND VIOLENCE IN ORDER TO UNDERMINE THE OBJECTIVES OF THE #FREEJACOBZUMA CAMPAIGN
Ms. Haffajee, I wrote an open letter to you a few months ago, in which I called you an imbedded propagandist for White Monopoly Capital. The recent propaganda pieces that both of Ms. Thamm and you penned, prove my point.
Ms. Haffajee, without even a nod of acknowledgement to facts, and the truth, you wrote in response to the #ReleaseJacobZuma media conference of the 16th of June, that the ‘RET faction’ made a “last-gasp plea for clemency” for President Jacob Zuma. The fact that there is no ‘RET faction’, only concerned members of the ANC who want to see the RET Resolutions of the 54th National Conference of the ANC, as part of the ANC official economic policy, implemented did not stop you from such a propagandistic act of labelling the millions of supporters of President Jacob Zuma.
Furthermore, the fact that those who campaign for the release of President Zuma, who is now the first political prisoner since 1994, have always called for peaceful protesting within the confines of the law, did not stop Ms. Thamm and you from labelling us as responsible for the tragic violence and looting that befell South Africa over the past two weeks.
It is amazing how people like you, who have never been in the forefront of the fight against apartheid, now present yourselves as fighters for ‘justice’, and try to label those of us - like me - who have sacrificed our whole lives in the struggle against apartheid as ‘criminals’, who should be arrested.
This you do through propagandistic slights of hand, like having found my name on a WhatsApp Group called ‘Free Zuma Information’, and selectively lifting some posts in the group to serve a narrative that the group was a ‘key organizing group’ in violence and looting. Nor is the fact that I never posted anything in the group mentioned by you.
The fact of the matter is that I was not aware that I was added to that group, and when I was alerted that my name was in the group, I immediately exited. Having exited from the group must not be construed in any way whatsoever as me distancing myself from the #FreeJacobZuma campaign - which I take a lead in supporting and campaigning for - but simply because I do not like being associated with groups when I do not know their origin and full purpose.
I know the tactics of journalists like you, who will never miss an opportunity to smear one by association and selective conjecture. Of course you never ‘disappoint’, and this was exactly what you tried to do with your article about that particular WhatsApp group.
Ms. Haffajee when I approached you, and your editor, Branco Brkic, for the right of reply to the propaganda rubbish that you wrote, it was denied to me on the flimsy excuse that an obscure e- mail with questions that you have sent to me under a totally misleading heading, and which I have not seen, gave me an adequate opportunity to reply. So much for freedom of speech! It is my distinct impression that having e-mailed your questions in the way that you did, you were just ticking a box, while you had already made up your mind. Evidently it is your propaganda way or the high way. No other narrative will be condoned.
Clearly the Daily Maverick decided about the malicious narrative that you wanted to push about the “Free Zuma Information” WhatsApp group, and my supposed involvement, and nothing was going to derail you from that propaganda campaign. As the old saying goes, you were not going to allow yourselves to be confused by the facts.
The same approach is also evident in the article by Ms. Thamm, who selectively used quotes from a media conference that I addressed on the 2nd of June 2021 at the Nkandla residence of President Zuma to construct a totally fallacious narrative that I called for “insurrection”. In fact Ms. Thamm used the phrase: “… Niehaus was the face of the broadcast of insurrection to the insurrectionists”; and then flipping over from journalist to prosecutor, state that I should arrested and charged for “inciting violence”. Of course she did not mention that in that very same media conference I repeatedly stated that I, and MKMVA, are totally against violence, and called for those who are opposed to the imprisonment of President Zuma to remain calm, and that all protest action must be within the confines of the law. Again the Daily Maverick displayed an already made-up, propaganda mind, no matter what the facts were.
For the record, let me state the facts: I was deployed by the NEC of MKMVA to Nkandla in a highly volatile and emotional situation. On my arrival at Nkandla I held a media conference during which I articulated carefully and in detail, in a briefing that was more than an hour long, the full history of MKMVA’s support for President Zuma, and why MKMVA is opposed to the imprisonment of President Zuma. The whole media conference was broadcasted live on the three national television news channels, namely SABC TV News, e-NCA and NewzRoom Africa. If the two of you, and your editor, are interested in the truth you can view the whole media conference here: https://youtu.be/2bm1HXXWt1U, but I am not holding my breath - yours is not the craft of objective journalism, it is apartheid-like Stratcom propaganda.
I executed the mandate that I was given by the MKMVA NEC with great care. As the recorded video of the conference proves, I was in particular at pains to emphasize that all expressions of opposition to the prison sentence of President Zuma must be peaceful, and within the confines of the law. I furthermore instructed all the MKMVA members present to utilize their military training and discipline in order to help to control the crowds that gathered, and to ensure peace and discipline.
I am not in the habit of speaking without thinking, every word that I spoke was carefully considered and I stand by what I have said.
Contrary to the narrative that Ms. Thamm tried to spin, I actually played a pivotal leadership role, under very difficult circumstances. The situation that prevailed outside the Nkandla Residence of President Zuma could easily have degenerated into chaos and violence if it was not for the overall leadership that I and others provided, and the command that I executed over the members of MKMVA who were present there to be disciplined, and to maintain peace and order.
I reject the propaganda insult by Ms. Thamm that MKMVA is a rogue militia with the contempt that it deserves. Only someone who does not understand the history of the critical role that Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) veterans played in the liberation of our country from the scourge of apartheid, will make such an insulting and vacuous, a-historical, comment!
I addressed the members of MKMVA, who have been camping at the entrance to President Zuma’s residence, twice over the period of the 2nd to the 4th of July, and urged them to remain disciplined and calm, and to always act within the confines of the law.
It is totally false and contrary to the real role that I played to allege, as Ms. Thamm did, that I fueled any volatile situation, and, “was the face of the broadcast of insurrection to the insurrectionists”.
The contrary is true. I, furthermore, played an important leadership role when a volatile situation developed on the morning of Sunday, the 4th of July, at a police roadblock on the road between Eshowe and Nkandla.
The South African Police Service (SAPS) erected an impromptu roadblock, and stopped a convoy of cars that were traveling to Nkandla. A dangerous situation developed when those who were blocked became angry and started hurling insults at the police. When I arrived at the roadblock I immediately engaged with the enraged crowd, and requested of them to remain calm. I then proceeded to negotiate with the SAPS officers in charge, and managed to convince them to open up the roadblock and allow the convoy to go through.
All of this was captured on national television, and broadcasted live on e-NCA. In that live broadcast I can be seen calling several times on the crowd to remain calm. The evidence is that I successfully managed to negotiate with the police and resolved the situation peacefully, which led the convoy without any further incident being allowed through the roadblock, and to travel onwards to the Nkandla Residence of President Zuma.
All of these incidents were broadcast live, and in fact re-broadcast, on national television. Once again, if either of you are actually interested in the truth, copies of these broadcasts are available. They prove conclusively that instead of lambasting me with demonstrably false allegations of non- existent acts of instigation for ‘insurrection’ and violence, gratitude should be expressed to me for the leadership that I provided, and the manner in which I helped to maintain peace and stability.
It is untrue, and not borne out from any facts, that I made any “inflammatory speeches”, and based on the evidence of the live national broadcasts of the media conference and speeches I made, I have not made a single utterance that called for insurrection or violence. In fact, I acted in a very responsible and disciplined manner, that saved the ANC NEC from a potentially very embarrassing situation as a result of the absence of the ANC leadership at Nkandla over the period of the 2nd to the 4th of July.
I will not apologize for having warned that the arrest of President Zuma could lead to instability and violence. It was my, and MKMVA’s, civil duty as responsible citizens to do so.
I, and MKMVA, were not the only ones that warned about the consequences of President Zuma being arrested. There were also several warnings that the arrest of President Zuma could lead to another Marikana. Having raised that red flag, as a warning to the powers that be, does it mean that those who did so were instigating violence? Evidently it is absurd, as absurd as trying to construe my and MKMVA’s warnings, as acts of instigation for ‘insurrection’. It is in fact as absurd as warning someone not to light a cigarette in a dynamite factory, and when the fool still proceeds to do so, to be blamed for the explosion.
I know that the propaganda lies that both of you peddle are part of a much broader campaign, with links to reactionary elements in the ANC, the state security apparatus, and government in general, to try and intimidate those who are calling for the immediate release of President Jacob Zuma.
In this intention of yours, you are failing miserably. I, and many others will not cower and be intimidated. We will continue to campaign unabated, and in fact take a lead in the #FreeJacobZuma campaign.
The following quote from the media release that we issued on the 16th of July 2021 is instructive:
“When there were those of us who warned that the imprisonment of President Zuma will have serious consequences, and could lead to instability and unrest, our sincerely meant warnings were rejected. We were abused, and called all kinds of names. We warned that the prejudiced manner in which President Zuma had been targeted, and state law enforcement agencies had been abused to persecute him, was undermining the rule of law. Our contention had always been that the targeting, and persecution, of President Zuma is political and factional, and that any genuine and lasting solution has to be political, and must be part of the fundamental and radical economic transformation of our country.
We are not oblivious to the fact that the legal persecution of President Zuma is inspired by his stance on White Monopoly Capital (WMC) disguised through portraying President Zuma as a corrupt person. It is against this background that our demands on the release of President Zuma are linked to various demands pertaining to the fundamental and radical transformation of the economy.
We further note that there are opportunistic attempts to try and hold those of us who have issued these genuine warnings responsible for the violence. This is dishonesty of the worst kind. To try and now turn those of us who have warned about the dire consequences of triumphalist and reckless actions in to scapegoats, is disingenuous and the pinnacle of political opportunism and cynicism.
Let us be crystal clear: We do not support violence. Our principled opposition against the long-time persecution, and now political imprisonment of President Zuma, have always been peaceful and within the confines of the law. We have never called for lawlessness, and violence.
We take note of the fact that there are many criminal opportunists who have ridden at the back of the genuine protest against the injustice meted out at President Zuma for their ill-gain. We stand opposed to any looting, burning or destruction of property, more so that in many instances such has occurred where it hurt black businesses in black townships setting back the township economy. We are not leading a criminal assault, but a legitimate revolutionary course where criminality will never be tolerated.”
As we also stated in the media statement, we are not oblivious to the propaganda intentions of you, and other propagandists who masquerade as journalists, who continue to call the criminal action by looters ‘Zuma supporters’, because in your books President Zuma is all that is criminal.
We know that your propaganda lies are aimed at delegitimizing anyone who protest against the unjust incarceration of President Zuma, as a looter and therefore a criminal.
This is the case, whilst you honestly know that looting in South Africa is associated with a deep socio-economic crisis. The looting poor are in fact an indictment against our ANC government, and its failure to ensure the economic empowerment of black (especially African) South Africans after 27 years of being the governing party.
We therefore cannot simply see such people merely as looters, and not also as people awaiting an elusive radical socio-economic transformation to bridge the massive historic inequality gap. That in Gauteng the protests were more pronounced first in Alexandra is telling, as the divide between that place and Sandton defines what South Africa is all about, a two economy State, one poor and predominantly black and the other wealthy and predominantly white.
Even the release of President Zuma, and him intervening in this fundamental crisis, will not provide a long term solution for stability to restore and rebuild our ravished and torn apart society. We will have to embark on a process that must lead to the fundamental and radical socio-economic transformation of our country.
That is why the #ReleasePresidentZuma campaign is fundamentally, and irrevocably, tied to the fundamental Radical Economic Transformation (RET) of our society.
We are unequivocally clear that the current super exploitative capitalist economic model, that only serves the interests of the rich few, and even devours the small black middle-class, while plunging the vast majority of black poor into ever deepening levels of despair will have to be uprooted and replaced by a socially responsible and indigenously owned and controlled economy that will serve the needs and interests of the majority of black (especially African) South Africans.
The strangle hold that White Monopoly Capitalism (WMC) has on our economy - literally squeezing the last drop of blood out of the black poor - has to come to an urgent, and immediate, end. We are also clear that the prime sin by President Zuma, and why he is so viciously pursued and persecuted, is because he believes that such fundamental change must happen.
Thus the #ReleasePresidentZuma campaign included in our media statement demands for the urgent attention of President Ramaphosa, to which we requested him to respond within 14 days. The fact that President Ramaphosa even refused to receive these demands, is a serious indictment on his leadership.
In pursuit of those demands we will continue with further peaceful and lawful protest action. In all of these actions, and the intensification of the campaign for the immediate release of President Zuma, the need for Radical Economic Transformation (RET) will be inseparable and fundamental.
We know that in typical apartheid Stratcom-like style you will try to undermine our broad based democratic campaign for socio-economic justice, and peddle blatant lies aimed at discrediting it through manufacturing non-existent links to violence and lawlessness.
I, and many more of us, will not be phased. We will continue, no matter what lies, and undemocratic repression of our right to freedom of speech and our other civil liberties, you may attempt to muster against us.
Unlike you we have fought apartheid, and despite having had to pay a heavy price we emerged victorious. We know how to face up to oppressors and adversity. Whatever the price we may have to pay now again against all the agents of White Monopoly Capital, including the consequences of your Stratcom propaganda lies, we know that we will ultimately emerge victoriously again.
You see Ms. Haffajee, as I have said in my earlier open letter to you, that I referred to in the opening paragraph of this letter, we are on opposite sides of the battle that will have to be fought to its final conclusion.
One thing I can assure both Ms. Thamm and you, and also your editor - as well as the whole foreign funded propaganda outfit that the Daily Maverick is - I and many others are not going to back off. So there you have it, bring it on. We are ready for you.