Herman Mashaba

None more blind than those who refuse to see

2018-10-22 14:10
The City of Johannesburg

The City of Johannesburg

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Using radio and social media platforms available to her, recently, Ms Karima Brown chose to read out a message which she claimed to have received. 

The message which Brown sought to distribute comprised of unsubstantiated claims masquerading as a grand analysis of coalition governments. The message, and I paraphrase, claimed that the coalition government in Johannesburg was working due to a corrupt relationship through which the EFF was profiting, all due to a complicit mayor.

In claiming she and others only received the message, Brown conveniently attempts to avoid all accountability for the substance of the words distributed and tries to assume the role of "messenger" rather than that of respected journalist. 

This has to be regarded as the intellectual equivalent of "I spy with my little eye" posing as insightful political commentary. 

The fact that Brown elected to distribute the message, giving it prominence, suggests that she, on some level, affords it value.

What if I were to claim to have received a message which stated that Brown masquerades as an impartial journalist while serving the political agenda of a political party she openly associates herself with? 

Would I be entitled to read out such a message on public platforms and not be held accountable by the media or be required to substantiate my decision to publicise such a message? I suspect we know the answer. 

How someone could lend credence to shallow unsubstantiated and malicious gossip is beyond all understanding.

In one irrational swoop, Brown succeeds in dismissing the notion that my colleagues and I work tirelessly, in the interests of our residents, to negotiate the complex terrain of a coalition government. 

Seemingly, it is unfathomable to conceive that we may embrace the arrangement installed by voters, consulting and engaging to find diverse solutions to the many challenges that face our residents. 

The overly simple deductive reasoning distributed by Brown assumes that political parties cannot find areas of common ground, located in addressing the service delivery backlogs that confront our residents. 

Unlike national government, local government lacks the space for wide ideological differences. It is about delivering services, creating jobs and combatting the epidemic of corruption. 

Indeed, the multi-party government in Johannesburg has done more to combat corruption than any other government in South Africa. Over 4 000 cases under investigation, involving in excess of R24bn by a unit led by one of our country's most respected crime fighters is a record that should speak for itself. 

We have taken action against our own without fear or favour, operating with transparency and accountability. The case load of this forensics unit has implicated ministers and former members of the previous government in contracts worth billions of rands. It took the form of some of the most brazen looting which all took place while members of your profession faithfully reported away on the "World Class African City". 

Perhaps more worthy of political commentary would be the inaction of the law enforcement agencies and the NPA to ensure those who looted the City of Johannesburg go to prison. Despite case files being handed over by expert investigators, the cases appear to languish, bringing into question whether political connections amount to "get of out jail free" cards? 

Rather than assessing the success of this complex coalition arrangement as arising from any of the above positive efforts of the multi-party government, Brown flippantly reads out a message deducing it must stem from corrupt interests. 

Recently, our country has become more and more alive to the risks of investigative journalism giving public prominence to conjecture. The one central principle which has arisen from this discourse is that journalists should not separate the media freedoms which we celebrate from the accountability that must exist for the profession. 

When journalists give public prominence to baseless information in the political space, they run the risk of entering the realm of party politics where baseless information is often peddled for political ends. 

Journalism has to operate at a higher standard than party political rhetoric for it to be the effective accountability tool that is so desperately needed in our country.

- Mashaba is the executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    da  |  eff  |  herman mashaba  |  city of johannesburg
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