By Pinky Khoabane
An analysis of media reportage of xenophobic utterances by King Goodwill Zwelithini and Herman Mashaba exposes media bias…
In a divided country that South Africa is, the likes of Joburg City Mayor Herman Mashaba can get away with anything and everything – including inciting afrophobic attacks. Mashaba recently called African nationals illegally in the country “criminals” and accused them of “messing up” the City. His utterances have been followed by a spike in attacks on foreign-owned businesses and homes.
There has been very little condemnation by the media and the chattering classes whose outrage is determined by the media anyway.
Contrast this mute response to King Goodwill Zwelithini’s utterances in March 2015 when he called for the deportation of foreigners.
As soon as the remarks were published in the media, the Democratic Alliance (DA) was among the first to issue a statement condemning the King for “highly irresponsible” comments given the “recent spate of xenophobic attacks in South Africa. He should do the right thing, retract and apologise,” the party said.
Where is a similar condemnation of its Mashaba?
At the time, Zwelithini said his comments were taken out of context by the media but those in the media who know Zulu said the King didn’t mince his words when he “likened foreigners to parasitic fleas”.
“Foreigners must go home – King Zwelithini” was the headline in The Citizen http://citizen.co.za/news/news-national/349347/foreigners-must-go-home-king-zwelithini/
Even constitutional lawyers entered the fray and analysed whether the King could be charged with hate speech and the punishment http://constitutionallyspeaking.co.za/xenophobic-statement-is-king-zwelithini-guilty-of-hate-speech/
In Mashaba’s case, there has been little if any condemnation by the media. I couldn’t find a piece condemning him. Instead, the few articles written are about the anti-immigrants march and views by organisations against xenophobia who blame Mashaba. But no opinion pieces anywhere from our esteemed columnists.
There were more articles on Mashaba’s shock of the planned “xenophobic attacks and his denunciation of xenophobia. The slant was similar in most newspapers: “No place for xenophobia in Joburg – Mashaba”.
Only the Mail & Guardian had a somewhat negative take on Mashaba and attributed the attacks to him albeit that by the end of the article the report had turned the blame elsewhere http://mg.co.za/article/2017-02-23-00-mashaba-still-scot-free-as-attacks-erupt
By late afternoon, some on Twitter had begun speculating that it was only a matter of time before the media blamed President Jacob Zuma and the ANC and indeed, they were not to be disappointed as EWN shifted the story to the storming of the Joburg council and reported that Mashaba blamed the ANC. http://ewn.co.za/2017/02/23/herman-mashaba-blames-anc-for-violence-at-joburg-council.
By the weekend, Mashaba’s utterances which have no space in our country today, will have been conveniently removed from our memory.