Fake News

Zuma discovers fake news take no prisoners

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Because fake news is per definition generated to cause harm, anyone can fall victim – even the opportunistic and brazen.

The unsophistication with which fake news are generated, planted and then used as “evidence” for often sleazy political manoeuvres leaves me with a hankering – an unusual hankering but, a hankering nonetheless.

It is a hankering back to the days of the Cold War, even the Second World War, when disinformation, because that it what fake news is, was a sophisticated art practised by professionals.

The planners and executioners took pride in their work and rightfully revelled when the opposition was outfoxed.

One of the most classic examples in successfully flummoxing the opposition by spreading false news, remains the manner in which the Allies confused the Germans where and when the D-Day landings would take place.

Looking back today one can only but admire the sophistication and skill exercised by both sides on the East – West divide during the Cold War period.

Low quality

The unprofessional and artless quality of the so-called ”intelligence reports” of late in South Africa, preceding a shock cabinet reshuffle, has become part of the armoury of an incompetent and corrupt administration, attempting to save its own hide.

Aimed to confuse, intimidate and divert attention, the levels of absurdity have reached a new low when President Zuma’s lawyers asked the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) to produce the extremely bizarre “intelligence report” that he used to dismiss Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan.  

And, this after the DA got a court ruling for Zuma to supply the report.

The report in question, which insinuated that Gordhan and his deputy were conniving with foreign financial forces to remove President Zuma, now seems to have suddenly disappeared into thin air with even the Minister of State Security claiming no knowledge of the report.

If Minister Mahlobo is unaware of the fake “intelligence report” on which President Zuma has acted in a manner causing the South African economy irreparable damage, he and his ministry is the personification of incompetence – but everyone knows he is lying.

If the minister really needs help he should only ask former Finance Minister Gordhan or the Commander-in-Chief of the Economic Freedom Front (EFF), Julius Malema. Both have displayed copies of the “intelligence report” in public.

A simple Google search will also provide the elusive report.

No immunity

Malema himself was recently on the receiving end of fake news in an attempt to discredit, and portray him as a destabiliser in the domestic political affairs of a neighbouring country.

The media in Zimbabwe recently, rather opportunistically, reported that the EFF leader was part of a plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe.

The succession battle in Zimbabwe to replace the 93-year old autocrat is turning ugly, and one of the younger contenders, 46- year old Minister of Local Government, Public Works and National Housing and ZANU PF national political commissar, Saviour Kasukuwere, has played his cards to early.

In what is obvious an attempt to discredit the ambitious and flamboyant Kasukuwere, the Sunday Mail “revealed” that Malema “was in a deal” with Kasukuwere to topple Mugabe and that their plot was backed by a former British ambassador to South Africa, Robin Renwick.

Renwick was an influential diplomat and ambassador to South Africa during the country’s transition to democracy.  Earlier in his career he was posted in the then Rhodesia. 

Calling it an “unholy alliance”, the Sunday Mail reported that Renwick met Malema in London in 2015, after which the EFF leader apparently dumped his economic nationalisation mantra and started pursuing the ousting of President Jacob Zuma.

Forfeiting all credibility, if there was any from the start, the paper also quoted a ‘source’ with access to the plot, “that many suspects Malema is funding Kasukuwere and the G40”.

The G40 is a group of high-flying and ambitious ZANU-PF “Young Turks” with Kasukuwere a leading member.

Malema, particularly during his time as ANC Youth League leader, was a devotee and praise-singer of Mugabe, lauding his disastrous economic and land policy as a blueprint for South Africa.

It all changed recently when Malema called on President Mugabe to step down and chided ZANU-PF members, labelling them cowards for failing to tell "grandpa" Mugabe it is time to hand over power.

The response from Mugabe’s supporters was unforgiving. Revenge came in the circulation of fake news that Malema is complicit to instigate regime change in Zimbabwe.

The comment in the non-state owned media in Zimbabwe that “many are rolling around with laughter in Harare,” in reaction to the article by the Sunday Mail, does however, also not blunt the message for Malema, if you present yourself in a wrapper, you must expect to be licked.

Malema is no stranger to opportunism when it suites him.  He was the lead-singer of the band that was prepared “to kill for Zuma” and remains an advocate for the misdirected and ruinous policies that brought Zimbabwe and Venezuela to their knees.

Conclusion

It is clear, the unprofessional use of fake news as a propaganda tool can be a sharp, self-destructive double edged sword. It is demonstrated by the Sunday Mail article and the corner in which the Zuma-administration now finds itself regarding the firing of a principled Pravin Gordhan and his deputy, Mcebisi Jonas.

Also read: ANC disarray spread while uncertainty increase

by Garth Cilliers

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