Leave Zuma Alone: South African Media and Jacob Zuma

By: Tiny Nontulo – Nontulo is a graduate of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and an active member of the African National Congress Youth League in South Africa

The media is a monitoring tool for the public in a democratic state. People rely on it to keep up with the functioning of the government in particular. Therefore it is important that we have an objective, unbiased and fair media that we can trust and hold accountable. However our media in SA is contrary to that.

Any sane person, who has been closely following SA political reports as they unraveled pre-elections, will agree with me that media in SA does not have much influence on ordinary South Africans. If they had, ANC would not have won elections with such a huge margin, because of the role played by the media and opposition parties to discredit Jacob Zuma. People still voted him into office regardless of the negative media portrayal about him .

The survey that was recently conducted right after the Love child scandal (by TNS Research survey) clearly showed that i that many ordinary citizens separate their approval of Mr. Zuma as president from his private life.

The President remains the highest man within the country, therefore the public will have certain expectations in terms of how he conducts his life. The media must not only portray the President in a bad manner , rather it should look at how his action could inspire many men who have not been taking responsibility of their children. It remains our responsibility, as the citizens of the country, to report in a manner that builds our country in order to start changing attitudes of many South Africans in creating a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.

Central to this is the infringement of rights of the President towards his privacy, which is a constitutional duty of every South African to respect privacy. Our debate with the President should be based on the question of service delivery and how we can better the lives of the poor. I for one find it commendable that he had the courage to apologize for his actions. This could be interpreted as a sign that a politician in RSA finally cares about what the people say and feel regardless of his opinion about the matter.

Before we ride a high horse and become self appointed judges let us pause for a moment. Zuma is a reflection of men in our society. He represents 70% of married men in SA; remember the women with him are older intelligent women who have chosen to be with him.

The media is wasting so much energy on the latter issue. Do people have such pathetic lives to be so moralistic and so involved in what happens in Zuma’s life (or his bedroom to be precise). Everyday Zuma worries about what is best for South Africa, not the petty stuff published by the biased media. We all must concentrate on what he promised the people of South Africa and leave his private life alone.

Leave Zuma alone. The manner in which this issue was handled was totally wrong. We can not deny the fact that this man is our leader, we ought to treat him with respect and dignity. Publicizing his private sex life like this is totally out of order! Service, not sex should be what concerns South Africans.


21 Responses to Leave Zuma Alone: South African Media and Jacob Zuma

  1. Oh please. Why should this man be left alone? This man has opposed every law of political governance. He recently apologized for fathering an illegitimate child. Does he care about the country's efforts to fight HIV and AIDS? No he does not. He is clearly undermining South Africa's health campaign. You tell me he deserves to lead a country which has one of the highest infection rates in the world? I do not think so.

    Yes, Zuma was voted into power. Voted in by his fellow tribesmen, the Zulu who are probably the world's most avid supporters of polygamy and also South Africa's largest ethnic group. Judging by Africa's voting patterns there is no question he was going to come out on top. Polygamy is legal in South Africa, though it remains a hot button and one of the country's most contentious subjects. There is room for change and improvement in South Africa. The country has done very well and continues to thrive, but the media and public should always be allowed to bring about the change. Zuma MUST not be left alone. The people should understand and KNOW their president.

  2. "The views expressed in this aritcle are those of the author and do not reflect the opinions of the members of the editorial board of BLF". I think just this sentence should be enough to serve as a disclaimer.

  3. I agree that Zuma's fathering a child with his friend's doughter is bad manners. I also agree that some Zulus voted Zuma into power but I refuse to agree with the very tribal sentiments featuring from Anonymous above that Zuma was voted in by his 'tribesmen'- I think thats a bit reckless. About Zulu support for polygamy, I think this is … See Morenone of your business! Now I have to explain, before Zuma became president, he was already a polygamous man, he had been charged in court for rape in a case that was dismissed mysteriously before his election. This is why I think South Africans should just shut up. Why do I say so? You made Zuma president and you knew alll this before then, or even more. My point, lets ,not condemn Zulu culture because of Zuma's promiscuity, lets judge Zuma as President.

  4. I certainly respect the reason for posting this article on your blog. As mentioned in the prelude, “democracy” and “freedom of speech” are inherent rights in our young democracy, and by posting this article you are upholding these principles. Hence, I applaud you.

    Relating to the article, however, I would like to say the following:

    Firstly, one cannot claim that the media in SA has no bearing over the citizenry. In fact, it is the opposite. Therefore, it is more a question of the extent to which the public can distinguish between what they see in the news, and reality. News, by its very nature, is a process of selection and construction. Therefore, what viewers/readers see in the news is the result of a subjective process, often mistaken for a representation of reality. This alone means that the media influence the views of the public, should the public fail to question what they are seeing or reading.

    At the same time, however, the media plays a very small role regarding its influence over the voting citizenry, compared to America and the UK. This is owing to a number of factors, but the fact needs to be taken into account. Political parties do not have live debates on television in South Africa, nor are made to explain their manifestos by the media during the campaigning process. This is because campaigning in the proportional representation system, such as in SA, is far less vigorous. As a result, the only thing the media can do is cover “reports” on party’s campaigns (where, when, what was said, how many people attended), all the while remaining rather dethatched from the process – not probing. Therefore, when a news broadcaster wants to “influence” the public vote, all they do is attempt to discredit an individual’s reputation. And let’s face it, when we vote we aren’t voting for an individual, we are voting for a party – their manifesto. It’s not an American Idol vote, it’s a political vote.

    When the “private” relates to the president, it can be deemed public interest. One cannot claim that his private life has nothing to do with us. At the end of the day, the public deserve to know the kind of person he is. Whether or not this influences our vote is a decision we each need to make, but the media has a duty to at least publicise it. Media should not condone or condemn his actions, but should at the very least make them public, especially when polygamy and HIV are central issues to South African society.

    But, there is no alternative to the ANC. Despite opposition party attempts, there is no party that comes close to matching the same national support the ANC have. Therefore, however the news decides to portray Zuma, the majority will still vote for the ANC. People may find his actions immoral, but the fact remains – what alternative do the voting public have if they don’t vote for the ANC?

    It is beyond a question of privacy and morals. It is about a one party democracy in which despite what the ANC’s elected president does in his “private” life, or what the media publish about him, the public vote will still ensure the ANC are victorious. There is no alternative, and in terms of their manifesto, the ANC’s policies are the most relevant and realistic of the lot (as they have been tried and tested). During his short time in office thus far, Zuma has shown intolerance for corruption and has taken the necessary steps to restructure the cabinet in a way that will attempt, over the coming years, to deliver. This is more pragmatic than the former administration, and all we can hope for is that the public vote converts into service delivery. And if it doesn’t then the broader question remains: how long will the public have to wait for a viable opposition?

  5. As insightful as your article is, I disagree with the substance of your argument(s). And for clarities sake I will just tease out just three of the statements I do not agree with: Your contention that “the media must not portray the president in a bad manner”; The right to privacy argument you contended; And lastly your contention that “Zuma is a reflection men in our society.”

    First of all there is one thing that you seem to have missed in your article. The supreme law in South Africa is not African Indigenous law, nor common law or even statute law – but the supreme law of the law if the South African Constitution of the land. The president of the country derives his power’s from the constitution.

    Accordingly therefore he is supposed to conduct himself in a manner suiting to his position. When President Zuma took the oath to be the president of our country – he also accordingly bound himself to the provisions of the constitution. In fact the president is bound in terms of s83 of the Constitution to conduct himself in such a “fit and proper” manner.

    Freedom of the press is guaranteed in section 16(a) of our constitution, and the media in particular is tasked with the duty of not merely feeding the population with “Zuma propaganda”, but to actually uproot the “stories behind the story.” If the media did what you want it to do, i.e. “not portray the president in a bad manner” – how are we then supposed to know about the misconduct of our president? How are we to bring him to account for his lack of scruples? Such conduct as evidenced by the president is not the conduct of the president that our Constitution envisioned, in fact I would even I would even argue that his [mis]conduct is sufficient to take him out of power in terms section 83.

    Secondly, whilst everyone has the right to inherent dignity in terms of the constitution, that right is not absolute, it can be limited in terms of section 39 of the constitution. And in this case such infringement of his right to privacy would be justified for he is a public official, and hence it is in the public interest for the media to reveal his misconduct, even if it’s not in his capacity as the president– but also in his personal capacity.

    Lastly, your contention that “Zuma is a reflection men in our society” is surely unfounded? What is the basis of that contention? Or do you just merely assume that every married man cheats/ or even worse – that South African men have no scruples? Please give me some clearance, for I strongly disagree. Just because our president cheats (with five wives already), lies…etc does not mean that everyman does it – where did you get that statistic from? Generalisations are very dangerous in contentious issues like this one.

    I personally believe if Zuma had any morals, he would have resigned a long time ago, like a good leader does after putting his people under disrepute.

  6. sdsThis is just outlandish. This man has to be condemned for his actions. Any sane person in South Africa should ask him or herself if this is the kind of representative they want. Well if that's the case we cannot say much but remain shocked. Jacob Zuma has demonstrated his lack of decency and low moral standards. The Zulu culture shouldn't even be … See Morebrought up since that is tantamount to labeling all Zulu's as immoral people. In a normal state a president like this one should impeached or forced to resign.

  7. ….to those assuming my response to the article was a direct attack to the Zulu culture I urge you to reanalyze my argument. My response clearly states that the election of Zuma is credited to the majority of his tribe. Let us not hide behind the argument that Zuma was elected so he deserves a break. No. We all agree he was elected, but does that … See Moremake him the leader with the best of morals? People should never be silenced when they feel the need to criticize their presidents. Those criticizing Zuma may only be trying to knock some senses into those who vote based on tribal lines. This has been the case in most African countries and other developing nations around the world. Let us try and give the proponents for change a chance to speak up. He is not the right person to lead an emerging power.

  8. "He is not the right person to lead an emerging power."

    Well according to IEC 69.69% of those who voted elected him as their leader. With the election given a 'clean bill of health', that is to say declared 'free and fair' by observers, it is fair to argue that more than two thirds of the people that actually matter saw him (or in a wider sense, …his party) as 'right.' Are you going to argue against democracy, Anonymous? Perhaps you could explain what 'the RIGHT person to lead an emerging power' should look like.

  9. "Judging by Africa's voting patterns there is no question he was going to come out on top"

    This statement is insulting and without foundation. The assumption that the majority of Africans vote based on whether their presidents are from the same ethnic group or polygamous or not frankly is insulting to the entire democratic process on the continent… Research has shown that voting patterns, in Africa and elsewhere, depend on a variety of factors ranging from your everyday bread and butter issues to intimidation tactics/concerns to 'liberation' recognition…etc

  10. iIncredible debate…..a person being polygamous should not disqualify them from becoming a president. However, one of the most important issues, bedeviling "democracy" in Africa today is tribalism as Anonymous has mentioned. From the east to west, north to south let no one mistake some of what is going on as democracy. We cannot solve the problem by failing to acknowledge its existence by huffing and puffing when it is broached. Democracy does not mean going to the ballot and casting a vote, any dog can be trained to cast a vote. Democracy encompasses the critical analysis of ideas and voting on the merits of those ideas instead of along tribal lines. This problem exists in Ghana (ewe-akan), Nigeria(north-south), kenyal (luo-kikuyu) and has reared it head inSouth Africa, Senegal and Togo amongst others. We should be more analytical in our approaches and confront this canker before we all sink in the name of unexamined "democracy".

  11. Kwabena, your analysis though right to some extend misses the whole point of democracy…one man one vote! Democracy is not about choosing what is right or wrong, your conscience does that. By accusing ethnicity which you call tribalism for the failure of democracy in Africa, you miss the point that ethnicity (or tribalism) is an interest, like for example the interests of the conservatives in the US. I do not refute the fact that tribalism is an obstacle to national integration and development, but I refuse to agree that it hinders democracy.

    I also agree with George that BLF's response to an article that they had not published yet was unwarranted and un-called for. I feel like it is an attempt to hoodwink commentators to think in a certain way. By so doing, this is an attempt to gag, intimidate, and silence the true voices of the masses which they purport to represent. It is absolutely ridiculous!

  12. Political alignment is a natural process, electorate all over the world find common denominator- be it ethnicity, race, regionalism, class, grievances, etc. That is democracy for you.

    But to Tiny's article, its hard to find anyone here who agree with Zuma. But the reality is that there are millions of people out there who share Zuma's sentiment and who see him as their hero. Just because the voices of one section of African class with access to communication platforms in concert with Western inclined religious apparatus dominate national conversation, we should not forget that real change that we would like to see has to involve reaching the same masses we are disconnected from, the masses that are constantly dismissed as 'poor', 'uneducated' and even 'backward'.

    The current discourse is vocal and high-pitched yet practically empty. It will not prevent another Zuma coming to power in future. Until people of different social strata start a conversation to find a common ground, until we stop to demonize and outrightly dismiss African culture as morally empty and irrelevant today, until the debate transcend the media/ICTs to the grazing and mine fields, you and me will continue to write and talk and tomorrow we will still be asking the same question- how did we elect such as a person? Its better to know now.

  13. Solomon, I do not disagree that ethnicity can be a common denominator in a democratic environment. Nor do i disagree that one man , one vote is not democratic. The underlying premise of that one man one vote idea is to enable people side with ideas and arguments they deem fit based on their merits. it does not mean vote for a specific idea or person based on their ethnicity no matter how moronic their ideas are. In a democracy people win, people loose, with the premise that the ballot box is the ultimate judge of ideas amongst others….Ethnicity can and should play a role, it should not however be made the baseline of all decisions as has happened in countless African "democracies". If you still doubt this i present you Gbagbo's Cote d'Ivoire circa 2001-10 and even Ghana since the inception of 'democracy' in 1992..One man one vote does not mean group think voting in the name of ethnicity. that is what ails us….

    @ George, true words but how do we engage the masses in other ways other than ethnic/tribal lines and absent of the media?

  14. First and foremost let me commend you Tiny Nontulo for this provocative article! This 'media' platform which goes beyond the borders of South Africa is in itself a decisive and courageous and exciting exercise of freedom.

    However, I will argue against your arguments that the South African media seems to have been after Zuma for a very long time and as u put it "any sane person" should be aware of this fact. My argument is that the tension between the media and government has been going on long before Zuma came into power; in particular, it began when Mbeki was in power. What we are seeing now with Zuma's election and sex life is only the anti-climax of these tensions. If you remember correctly Mbeki and former Health Minister Manto-Tshabalala Msimang heavily criticized, the media for criticizing the government’s policy on HIV/AIDS, mainly the government’s "no policy" on AIDS or rather the garlic policy on AIDS. This is only one of the stories I am mentioning but, what we see in South Africa is what has happened in other African countries after independence where society or more specifically the political elite has a difficult time negotiating their powers and the powers that the civil society has. Most South Africans unfortunately have a tendency to think that whatever is happening in South Africa has never happened anywhere else, when history proves that false. Most governments after colonialism have told the media and intellectual community to shut up or "leave" them alone! Some of those governments in the end were taken over by military dictators, not to say South Africa will suffer the same fate. Not even looking too far, if you Nontulo remember correctly our neighboring Zimbabwe when the crisis began one of the first moves by the government was to shut down the media now look where Zimbabwe is. ..continued below

  15. But then again you contradict yourself by saying that South Africans do not listen to the media otherwise why would the ANC win with such margins? Well then if people do not listen to the media why are you bothered by these latest developments if they mean nothing? I think beginning to censor the media 16 years into a democracy is a very dangerous game and I am not aware of ANY African country that has prospered where the media has been told to shut up or as you put it to go and find something better to do! There is a good reason I repeat, why 50 years after independence African countries remain poor and are only now rebuilding their democracies including being more accommodative to criticisms from the media, South Africa is no exception to the experiences of other African nations and may should learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. As well it ok to disagree, we do not have to agree on everything, and just because we agree on certain matters does not make one person more South African than the other!

    The media and intellectuals wrote reports to the Mbeki Administration around 1999 it is said, informing them that poor South Africans were getting resentful of African foreigners opening business in their communities and that the country should be careful of future Xenophobia attacks. The recommendations were not taken seriously because it was assumed that South Africans would never attack other Africans, and look at what happened in 2008 when thousands of Africans were chased out of their homes in Alexandra in what spread throughout the country in a couple of days and is still taking place until today. The xenophobia attacks proved that South Africa is no different from the other African countries where xenophobic attacks have occurred, as we have seen in several countries in West Africa.

    Lastly, you ask if people have such pathetic lives as to concentrate so much on Zuma's private life. Well, the last time I checked the Daily Sun was the highest selling newspaper in South Africa with over 400,000 sales each day, with 71% of its readership being Black. The Daily Sun, I think we would agree is nothing short of a tabloid newspaper that writes about witchcraft and extra-marital affairs. The media is a reflection of the society it does not exist on its own, if South Africans, especially Black South Africans seems to like these kind of stories so much, why are you then so shocked that the curiosity has extended to the President's bedroom???

  16. There we go again Africans or Africanists trying to stay away from confronting issues that affect us as people. As emerging leaders trying to correct our elders' mistakes we are back doing the same thing showing our biases and trying to dictate on what people should write on. I commend the write for bringing such a though provocking article so that we can face the reality that is taking place in our countries.
    As for Umsholozi and his action there is no question about being off-side he should have done the honorable thing and call it a day. I do not support polygamy but I know the difference between polygamy and promiscuity…This is absolute promiscuity at its best and has nothing to do with the Zulu culture. Those who are trying to associate the beautiful Zulu culture with such a nonsense (promiscuity and polygamy) are off-side too. Culture is dynamic so there is no room for excuses about representation of a certain group. As young and upcoming Africans/Africanists we need to open our eyes and start paying attention to what is happening around us, stop listening to what people are saying and watch their actions…then we can come together and work on walking the walk, and talking the talk…booshwazees have failed our continent too they have become too big for their britches…

  17. "Sonono Khoza, a 39-year-old divorcée, was pregnant when her father, Orlando Pirates boss and chairman of the soccer World Cup local organising committee, was invited to share the stage with the newly elected president during a post-election bash at Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal, in June last year."

    Clearly, Zuma had sex with this lady before he was President and let us not crucify him for stuffs he did before elected….and of course, the South Africans knew that Zuma always wear his traditional regalia which always exposes his "men"….lol…..
    Well all has been said and my appeal is that let us learn a lesson from this:
    … See More
    Let us all learn to fasten our zips and stop pointing fingers because Zuma started this habit long time ago when he never thought he will lead SA one day. Who knows, maybe one of you will be a leader one day but if you fail to fasten your zippers now, same thing will happen. Zuma will cont. even if they can impeach him or whatever but my point is, let us be responsible at our age…….. I KNOW IT IS IRRELEVANT……….

  18. I do not agree with the idea that Zuma was tribally elected (by Zulus). The Zulu's are the largest tribe but they make up about 23% of the total population. Now not all 23% support the ANC, which is the party Zuma represents, a sizable number of Zulu's support the IFP. I also agree with Sbu, Zulu culture must not be brought into this discussion. … See MoreAlso the main cause of the latest issue with Zuma is having a child outside his marriage circle, and the culture that is being dragged into this actually punishes such behavior, the proof of that is the inhlawulo (fine) that Zuma had to pay to the Khoza family. The main subject of Zuma's problems should therefore not involve him being Zulu or Zulu culture but his position as the highest public officer in SA.
    Just to add what Zuma just did has nothing to do with polygamy,

  19. I do no think Zuma should be left alone. As a public figure holding the highest function in the land, it is fair and necessary that he be questionned about his tenure. However, I believe that our political leaders are not (and should not be) the ones that we would expect to hold the highest moral values. All over the world, political leaders have often proven themselves as not upholding those high values. That is what we should expect from our religious figures ( priests, imams, rabbis, …) not our presidents. What Mr Zuma does in his bedroom is none of my business, it is what he does in his office that I care about.

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