Predictable response to Zuma's speech

2012-01-13 00:00

THERE is an African Proverb that says: "Until lions learn to tell their own stories, tales of hunting shall always glorify the hunter."

This proverb came to mind in the aftermath of the ANC's 100th anniversary celebrations, as journalists, political and social commentators analysed the January 8 statement of the ANC, as delivered by President Jacob Zuma.

January 8 was one of the rare occasions in the 100 years since its formation that the ANC told its own story, in its own way and in its own time without being bothered by what commentators had to say.

It was remarkable that the ANC president managed to compress such a long, multilayered and complex history into a 90-minute narrative.

The response of most commentators was predictable to say the least. Instead of listening carefully and reading the statement objectively without ingrained prejudices, the commentators simply went to their tried and trusted template with regards to the president's speeches.

They argued that the speech was dull, uninspirational, concentrated too much on history and lacked vision. What's new? This is a template analysis that we have heard over and over again. Honestly, it does a major disservice to South African people.

But this template is also part of a dominant discourse, which has been told many times. Our commentators have taken it as an absolute truth. The sad part is that most of our media practitioners have become victims of their own propaganda. Any deviation from this discourse is usually faced with resistance; hence, deviation is shunned, as anyone who argues against it will be shot down.

The responses of the media need to be subjected to some further scrutiny. The past 100 years have taught us that there is a bigger agenda against the ANC. This says that the voice of the ANC must not be heard. The ANC must not tell its own tale. The argument against the president highlighting the glorious history of the ANC is made to hide the fact that the media have vested interests in the telling of the ANC history.

Nothing irritates the current crop of journalists, social and political commentators more than an ANC that speaks for itself and directly with its own members and the society that it leads.

The media know that there is no one who has a better vision than the ANC in the whole South African political landscape. However, they are at pains to admit that because they are opposed to that vision and they will rather claim it is non-existent.

Our media on many occasions have predicted the demise of the ANC, but to their frustration, the ANC continues to live and lead.

Our media fail to see and acknowledge that the fundamental vision and mandate of the ANC have since 1912 been the liberation of African people in particular and black people in general, which was achieved in 1994 when our people were freed from the yoke of apartheid. Where is the lack of vision there?

Part of our vision has also been around changing the socio-economic status of our people, eradicating poverty, dealing with socioeconomic inequalities that exist in our country, thus closing the gap between the poor and rich. This clearly is part of the bigger vision of the ANC, and it was clearly articulated by the president on January 8.

Since 1955, the vision of the ANC as articulated in the Freedom Charter has been based on the vision that "South Africa belongs to all who live in it, black and white". This is a vision of building a non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society, which was achieved when our people went to the first democratic polls in April 1994.

However, building a truly non-racial, non-sexist and democratic society is ongoing. Eradicating social inequalities and economic disparities is a work in progress, as is closing the gap between rich and the poor. These cannot be achieved in only 17 years of freedom.

Part of our vision was also articulated clearly by the president around fixing our education and health-care systems, rural development as well as growing the economy.

Zuma, and the entire ANC membership have the experience of 100 years. They have learnt that if the ANC does not tell its own tale, in its own way and from its own platforms, it runs a risk of suffering the fate of the lions.

• Sifiso Moshoetsi is the chief director for communications research at the Presidency. He writes in his personal capacity.

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