Apartheid-Style Propaganda Upon Us

By Akuba Mokoena

IN the advent of South Africa’s democracy, much to the shock of the majority of people living in this country, was the discovery that very few whites knew there existed a racial segregation policy called apartheid. Finding a white person who had voted for the National Party became a mammoth if not impossible task.

We didn’t believe them. How could they have not known, we asked? Looking at the sophisticated, systematic and strategic propaganda machinery of the National Party, it is now quite clear that some didn’t know the extent to which the apartheid regime would go in protecting white supremacy. Propaganda became a vital tool in the warfare against the liberation movements. 

Fast forward to today’s SA, where transparency and accountability are supposed to reign supreme. Ours is a country where many of the apartheid propaganda tactics are at play:

  • targeting specific messages to win the minds and hearts of specific audiences. Examples include President Cyril Ramaphosa’s forked tongue when he talks to international audiences referring to his predecessor’s administration as “nine wasted years” as if he wasnt a part of it. In another example, the President would tell international audiences there was to be no land expropriation without compensation but would return home to tell locals another story. 
  • Throwing a veil over some issues to shift attention from the reality of what is happening on the ground. An example is where Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan refuses to answer journalists questions about certain matters on the basis that it is a “Fight Back Campaign” from former President Jacob Zuma’s faction which is part of state capture. 
  • Divide and Rule. The art of divide and rule is a tactic used by oppressors all over the world, The National Party were experts. In today’s South Africa, there are factions within the ANC creating an opposition within the party. With each ANC administration that comes into power, members who belong to the ousted faction must toe-the-line of the incoming faction or be purged from jobs and tender opportunities. State machinery is used to go after the opposition within the ANC. We’ve seen this unravel before our eyes since former President Thabo Mbeki took over and it has happened with each administration thereafter. 
  • During the apartheid era, there was a propaganda campaign that sought to project PW Botha as the president who together with his administration, were determined and engaged in the difficult task of changing apartheid. Today, we are fed the narrative of an administration that is beyond reproach because they are “fixing” the “9 wasted years”. 
  • We live in a country where it’s no longer clear what is fact and what are lies and what the agenda is. In between the ANC’s faction fights and establishment media that have decided to be part of the faction and not hold the ANC and Ramaphosa to account, we find ourselves getting one-sided news articles while the side of others is completely ignored. We have a media that focus only on the “villains” while turning a blind on “saviours”. 

Collapse of VBS Mutual Bank

Let’s take the issue of the media’s obsession with the EFF’s alleged looting of VBS, for example. The report into the collapse of VBS cites 25 big beneficiaries of the theft but establishment media is focusing on the EFF’s leaders, Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu only. All those responsible for bringing VBS to its knees ought to account, money recouped and imprisoned. The Sowetan once published a collage of 12 people “How to steal a bank” and among them was former SAA Chairperson Dudu Myeni, who took them to the press ombudsman and Sowetan was forced to apologise. 

While the matter of VBS and any person who steals from the poorest of the poorest ought to face the wrath of the law, questions must be asked about the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) which bailed-out African Bank when it went bust but refused to bail-out VBS. What was the motivation to assist one bank under curatorship and not another? 

Another major issue that ought to be asked relating to the VBS saga is how the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA). Pravin Gordhan at the time, under whose watch municipalities are, could not have picked up the unlawful conduct of municipalities in making large deposits into VBS. Why are these questions not being asked? 

Where was the auditor general? Why are questions not levelled at him for having overlooked the mass looting of 14 municipalities who put approximately R1.5bn into VBS?

PIC vs Sekunjalo Group

The Public Investment Corporation (PIC) has recently applied to have Sekunjalo Independent Media (SIM) liquidated. In one instance, owner Dr Iqbal Surve is accused of share manipulation and he in turn accuses the PIC of a political agenda to close down his media entities which have been “exposing” the dirt on Gordhan and Ramaphosa. In another reason given, we hear that the PIC is being liquidated in an effort to recoup monies owed to it for an unserviced loan. 

The media is split according to ANC factions and it is unclear what the facts are. But one has to ask why SIM is the only one targeted when Jayendra Naidoo’s company received a R9.3bn loan from PIC to buy shares in Steinhoff which later collapsed. The Mpati Inquiry into PIC heard the loan was “reckless” and was “fraught with irregularities”. It heard there was “mayhem” in the boardroom when it was presented.

Read also Steinhoff v VBS – how establishment media manufacture public outcry

The State pension fund took a knock running into billions of rand as a result of the Steinhoff collapse. This money was not recouped and instead was written off. It far exceeds what SIM allegedly owes PIC and yet Naidoo and his Lancaster company have gone unscathed in South Africa’s largest corporate fraud. Read here about the Jayendra Naidoo’s “reckless” R9.3bn loan


You have to ask yourself why the obsession to privatise some government entities while turning a blind eye on others. All state owned entities have a strategic role to play – they fuel the economy and yet this government is fixated with focusing on some SOEs and not others. Let’s take what’s happening at Eskom where in “fixing it” it recorded a R20.7bn loss under its bumbling taxi driver who has been elevated to Chairman, executive chairman and CEO. 

The announcement of the new CEO Andre Ruyter who dropped the share price of Nampak from a high of R48.85 in November 2014 when he took the reigns to as low as R6.85 last week is shocking but not altogether surprising. The interpretation of “Fixing Eskom” as most citizens know it cannot be the same as that of Eskom’s board who have appointed a failure into the job while overlooking more qualified candidates. 

SAA is another one of those entities that this administration has been calling to have privatised. Under the Ramaphosa administration SAA has failed to submit 2 years’ financial statements and Parliament’s watchdog Scopa is miffed. The financial performance must be so bad that the SAA board cannot disclose this in public. But do you hear an outcry? Of course not.

Ramaphosa and Pravin are close to owners of establishment – in all its forms – media and the economy – and have become untouchable. 

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