‘Protecting’ Jacob Zuma against newspaper overtakes studying

2014-06-05 17:02

Angel Tshabalala (18) and her friends scrapped their plans to study for their matric mid-year exams and joined Gauteng’s ANC Youth League march to “protect” President Jacob Zuma.

“I’m here to protect my president,” Tshabalala said as she put on an ANC T-shirt over her school uniform today. “Yes, tomorrow I am writing my English 1 exam but I think it’s important to be here,” she said.

Many pupils marched with more than 100 supporters of Gauteng’s ANCYL to the Mail & Guardian’s Johannesburg offices to hand over a memorandum which denounced “the systematic manner in which the Mail & Guardian has become a willing propagandist for the opposition, all bent against the African National Congress”.

The protest was in response to a month-old editorial written ahead of the May 7 elections. The editorial urged South Africans to vote tactically to dilute the ANC’s power.

“Never before has the M&G urged readers to oppose the ANC. But we do so now because the aim is to make the ANC more effective and responsive. It is to hold it to the values it espoused in 1994. It is a tactic that should be palatable even to those who have historically supported the party,” read the editorial.

The opinion piece went on to accuse the governing party of having national and provincial leadership structures that were “packed with incompetents who owe their positions to their loyalty to Jacob Zuma”. “Today, Cabinet ministers openly favour cutting fundamental rights through statutory media controls and a secrecy law – and they are cheered on by time-serving ANC MPs, who slavishly obey the party bosses.”

ANC supporters today gathered outside the newspaper’s offices and chanted: “Phansi nge-Mail & Guardian Phansi [Down with Mail & Guardian] and Phansi nge-Mail & Garbage [Down with Mail & Garbage].”

They waved placards which read: “Hands off President Zuma” and “Media bias = Treason” while singing “Voetsek Mail & Guardian” before the handing-over of the memorandum to the editor, Angela Quintal.

The memorandum also accused the newspaper of endorsing opposition parties and failing to provide free and fair election reporting.

“Our president was tried and persecuted in the media ... In this kangaroo structure that was erected on the basis of politically motivated prejudice,” read the memorandum.

Quintal said she appreciated the memorandum and promised to take time to reflect on the matter.

“We are in a democracy. This is what we fought for. I think the ANC Youth League has every right to protest and they did so peacefully. Just as we have every right to put our views out there. I’m not sure that people actually read the editorial in full. .. but I think the important thing is that we will engage,” she said.

Quintal said the paper had invited the ANC leadership to “a robust discussion” about the editorial.

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