MultiChoice's ANN7 decision a political act of censorship - MKMVA

Carl Niehaus says contract non-renewal a frontal attack on our inalienable right to freedom of expression


Date: 4 February 2018

The Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association is dismayed and angered by the decision of MultiChoice not to renew the contract of ANN7. This decision by MultiChoice – a white monopoly capital owned media company – firmly rooted in our unsavoury apartheid history through their owner Nasionale Pers, is not contractual it is political.

It is a political act of censorship to silence, and in fact totally remove, a television news channel whose reporting about the continuing control of White Monopoly Capital, and their ruthless exploitation of the black (especially African) majority, does not suit the plans of White Monopoly Capital and their black sell-out surrogates who want to continue strengthening their grip on our economy.

This is a direct frontal attack on our inalienable right to freedom of expression and the expression of a diversity of views. These rights are protected in our Constitution, and they are also articulated in the Freedom Charter under the clause ALL SHALL ENJOY EQUAL HUMAN RIGHTS, that states that “the law shall guarantee to all their right to speak, to meet together, to publish …”.

These are the rights that the African National Congress (ANC), right from our inception 106 years ago, fought for. Many members of the ANC and soldiers of Umkhonto we Sizwe laid their lives down for these rights in the struggle for a free, just and democratic South Africa. As Umkhonto we Sizwe Military Veterans Association (MKMVA) we cannot be silent when these rights are under attack, such silence will be a betrayal of our heroic freedom fighters who paid the ultimate price for these liberties.

MKMVA is usually quick to defend the gains of our liberation struggle, and among the first to speak out and issue media statements when our hard-fought freedoms are under attack. However, in the instance of MultiChoice’s decision not to renew the contract of ANN7 to broadcast on DSTV Channel 405 we have deliberately held back to speak out immediately.

This was not because we are not deeply concerned – and in fact outraged – by MultiChoice’s actions, but because we felt it was important that the African National Congress (ANC) as our Mother Body should have taken the lead with an official statement defending the rights of freedom of speech and the right to an expression of a diversity of views. Up to now, no organisation has fought harder and more consistently for these rights than the ANC.

It is a legacy that the ANC can truly be proud of. As the great German communist Rosa Luxemurg said: “Freedom is, always and only, freedom for those who think differently”. Furthermore, it was no-one less than our liberation icon and former President Comrade Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela who, paraphrased Voltaire, and declared: “We will not always agree with what you say, but will fight for you to have the right to say it, and it is called Freedom of Expression.”

In this year that we celebrate Hundred Years of Nelson Mandela, we expect of our ANC to lead the charge in defense of these rights that Madiba held so dearly. Thus, for us to initially hold back to pronounce about the outrageously repressive action by MultiChoice was a strategical decision in pursuit of unity, and an expectation for our Mother Body to lead us with a united voice in defense of Freedom of Expression and against the repression thereof by MultiChoice, or in fact anyone else.

Unfortunately, five days after MultiChoice made their announcement the ANC has not yet issued a formal statement to condemn their action, nor has the Officials of the ANC spoken out in unison against the MultiChoice decision.

The only comrade among our Officials who have spoken out is comrade Jessie, who with characteristic courage and clarity condemned MultiChoice, and warned about the grave dangers of White Monopoly Capital controlling who says what and how. All of us should take heed of her warning that “Repression has arrived.” Unacceptable as the official silence, up to now, from our Mother Body is, we want to express our sincere hope that this is an unfortunate oversight and that the ANC will still come out with a clear and unequivocal statement, and will lead a united revolutionary force in defense of Freedom of Expression. For the ANC to do so is critical for the sake of the legacy of our beloved Movement who as the leading progressive force in our society took the lead to enshrine the right to Freedom of Expression in our Constitution.

To be now silent, and in effect to abstain from defending that right cannot be an option and can only be hugely damaging to the overall liberation legacy of our leaders and the ANC in general. Thus, with due respect to our Mother Body MKVA can no longer hold back to speak out against the MultiChoice decision. We do so while continuing to hope that an official statement will soon be issued by the ANC, behind which we can all fall in as a united force against censorship and for the Freedom of Expression, and indeed all the other freedoms that we have fought so hard for.

Our condemnation of MultiChoice’s act of censorship is first and foremost not about the merits or de-merits of ANN7. We want to re-emphasise that it is about the sacrosanct principles of freedom of speech and our constitutionally protected right as South African citizens to a diversity of views. Comrade Jessie Duarte is absolutely correct when she stated that the war by White Monopoly Capital is not ultimately about the Gupta family, but it is about controlling who says what and how.

MKMVA takes specific umbrage to the statement by Mr. Calvo Mawela, the CEO of MultiChoice, to the effect that MultiChoice will find a new black company to replace ANN7 with – as if this will make MultiChoice’s repressive action right, as long as there is some black news channel.

It is shocking that Mr. Mawela can be so condescending and patronising towards himself and his own people! We are not surprised that MultiChoice, with its roots anchored in the apartheid and racist Nasionale Pers thinks like this (we do not expect anything different from them), but that Mr. Mawela as a black South African is prepared to articulate such views is truly shocking. This statement, in fact, speaks of racist notions of the so-called homogeneity of black people. Thus, if you have seen one black news channel you have seen them all – as long as they toe the line of the predominant narrative of the mainstream media that does not challenge White Monopoly Capital, because they are anyhow owned by WMC. As comrade Jessie Duarte so pointedly stated:

“The ANN7 black is not the black wanted, so a less cheeky black is required …”.

MultiChoice’s repressive decision to in effect close ANN7 down is only the final step after years of agitation to silence their radical and stridently pro-Radical Economic Transformation voice, which evidently irritated White Monopoly Capital and their hangers-on. It is important not to forget that the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA), the DA and the EFF are among the organisations that called for the removal of ANN7. The so-called Save South Africa campaign of Sipho Pityana (generously funded by George Soros’s Open Society Foundation) also had no qualms to call for the removal of ANN7, despite claiming that they stand in defense of the South African Constitution. With the support of OUTA, an online petition was kicked off in April 2017 to call for the removal of ANN7, and despite a huge promotion by Media24 (owned by Nasionale Pers) the petition only managed to garner 12, 600 votes. It was clear that despite every possible effort by the mainstream WMC media to influence public opinion against ANN7 South Africans were not volunteering in any significant numbers to have their hard-fought right to Freedom of Expression taken away from them. This despite the astonishing acknowledgement by Stephen Grootes of Radio 702/EyeWitness News, who in a sanctimonious article in the Daily Maverick under the title “Good Riddance, ANN7” celebrated the MultiChoice announcement; that journalists hunt in packs, and that they support and quote each other. Grootes acknowledged that their audiences are very similar and that more often than not they are interested in the same events and reflect similar opinions (See: ‘Good Riddance, ANN7, by Stephen Grootes, Daily Maverick, 1 February 2018).

This is nothing less than the manufacturing of consent that Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman write about in their book, Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. Grootes and his ilk, by his own admission, 'hunt in packs' creating consent in support of the WMC status quo, and similarly try to create the consent of outrage against those who oppose WMC values and are in favour of Radical Economic Transformation (RET).

Thus, since ANN7 is not part of the ‘pack’ they have decided to kill it and replace it with a ‘black’ news channel that will be part of the pack to ‘manufacture consent’ in favour of WMC.

As the paltry numbers of the OUTA and Media24 supported petition against ANN7 indicate, together with the wave of indignation and outrage from the many of the South African public against the MultiChoice decision indicate, Grootes and his pack of fellow WMC journalists have not been very successful. Many South Africans can see right through them; we know our liberation history and how hard we had to fight for our rights – including Freedom of Expression. We will not allow ourselves to be misled by the paid mercenaries of WMC.

We in MKMVA take heart from this integrity and steadfastness of many of our fellow South Africans. We concur with the ANC Women’s League (ANCWL) that instead of the demise of ANN7 our ANC led government and the media regulatory bodies (with specific reference to ICASA) must ensure that diversity in the media industry is nurtured, and not undermined by monopolies like MultiChoice. We concur with the ANCWL that transformation of the media industry remains one of the pillars of Radical Economic Transformation. It is therefore imperative that our ANC led government must ensure that the ownership, management and control patterns in the media industry is transformed in favour of the majority of black South Africans.

MKMVA reiterate our unequivocal commitment to the fight against fraud and corruption. If there was/is any corrupt activity committed by ANN7, or any of its staff or previous/current stakeholders, the law must obviously take its course.

However, no racially, politically or WMC financial motivated consideration or decision should be used to eliminate those carrying a different narrative which is not liked by White Monopoly Capitalists (and their packs of ‘consent building’ journalists) under the disguise of fighting fraud and corruption.

MKMVA calls together with many progressive South Africans, including the ANCWL and the ANCYL, as well as the vast majority of ANC members who are committed to our hard-fought right to Freedom of Expression, for MultiChoice to rescind its decision not to renew ANN7’s contract. If MultiChoice does not do so, we will mobilise our members and all sectors of society to revolt against MultiChoice. Such mobilisation should also include the careful consideration of a mass boycott of DSTV and the mass cancellation of DSTV subscriptions. The time has come for black (especially African) South Africans to utilise their massive collective financial buying power in order to protect our hard-fought rights and to advance Radical Economic Transformation.

MKMVA supports the planned picket at the MultiChoice Head Office at 137 Bram Fischer Drive in Randburg on Wednesday the 7th of February 2018, which is to commence at 10:00. In addition, we call on all freedom-loving South Africans to plan and proceed with rolling peaceful mass action throughout the country against MultiChoice and their owner Nasionale Pers, and we call on the ANC as the leader of society and all our ANC members to take the lead and to participate in such protest action.

The arrogance of White Monopoly Capital has gone too far: ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!

As the great USA Civil Rights activist, Harriet Tubman, said:

“If you hear the dogs, keep going. If you see the torches in the woods, keep going. If there’s shouting after you, keep going. Don’t ever stop. Keep going. If you want a taste of freedom, keep going.”

Issued by Carl Niehaus, MKMVA National Executive Committee member and National Spokesperson, 4 February 2018