Analysis

Ranjeni: A Political Dragon In the Newsroom

By: Hloni Nyetanyane

“Let the people know the truth and the country will be safe” is a quote attributed to Abram Lincoln which a journalist born in Dannhauser, a small coal town in KZN does not subscribe to. The journalist in question here is one Ranjeni Munusamy who is famous for her political meddling than reporting the truth while sitting on the fence as journalistic ethics dictate. For the purpose of this article, I shall be circumspect not to gravitate to the temptation of labelling her a Stratcom agent, however I shall not restrain myself from laying bare all there is to know about her since I saw her constantly whispering to Mo Shaik at Lustitia building (Bloemfontein) where Hefer Commission was sitting back in 2003.

Ranjeni gained her proximity to political principals when she was a spokesperson for KZN Transport MEC and ANC NEC member Sbu Ndebele. She probably got to break bread with Jacob Zuma when she was reporting about political violence in KZN where Zuma was deployed to quell the bloodshed. Her spurious claim that former Head of National Prosecution Authority (NPA) Bulelani Ngcuka was an apartheid spy is what made her the centre of flashing cameras. Ranjeni was Sunday Times journalist under stewardship of Mathata Tsedu. She approached Tsedu with a “scoop” that the NPA Head was an apartheid spy. Incidentally, Ngcuka was preparing to prosecute Zuma for his alleged role in the arms procurement deal. The elite investigation unit (Scorpions) was at an advanced stage and had already questioned Zuma for his alleged role.

Ranjeni claimed to have received information that Ngcuka was apartheid spy agent RS452 and that she was in possession of questions Scorpions had posed to Zuma. Being a principled Editor, Tsedu declined to run the story. Ranjeni was forced to take the “scoop” to rival City Press Editor Vusi Mona who published the story. The spy claim against the NPA head was volcanic – so much so that President Thabo Mbeki instituted the Hefer Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of the matter. They were ANC’s former underground intelligence network (Operation Vula) commander (Mac Maharaj) and operative (Mo Shaik). The two sources were grilled by evidence leader Adv Kessie Naidu and Ngcuka’s counsel Adv Marumo Moerane.

Throughout the duration of the Commission, Ranjeni would conduct media interviews outside the venue. She would sit in close contact with Mo Shaik exchanging little whispers while Maharaj was being cross-examined. At one stage, evidence leader remarked on the cosy camaraderie that existed between Ranjeni and Shaik. When the truth couldn’t be extracted from Maharaj and Shaik, the Commission summoned Ranjeni to testify. She declined to testify citing personal safety. She even told the commission that she found a black scorpion in her kitchen which she trapped into a mayonnaise container and sent to the lab for testing. When the Commission wouldn’t budge, she approached the High Court to interdict the Commission from forcing her to testify. Ultimately the truth surfaced that Ngcuka was never a spy agent – that the real agent RS452 was Eastern Cape human rights lawyer Vanessa Brereton.

Ranjeni resigned from Sunday Times before she could be taken through a disciplinary hearing. Ngcuka’s reputation was so tainted that he too resigned in July 2004. Ranjeni resurfaced in 2005 after President Thabo Mbeki fired Jacob Zuma as his deputy and the latter was facing rape charges. She became the face of Friends of Jacob Zuma Trust and ran Friends of Jacob Zuma website funded by businessman Don Mkhwanazi. She was one of the people who believed the Khwezi rape trial was just a political ploy to stifle Zuma’s political ambition. At this stage the former Sunday Times journalist was running her own communications company which she admitted was not specializing in “orthodox” communication. She continued to write pro-Zuma columns in the run-up to ANC’s 2007 Polokwane Conference.

Zuma was elected ANC President and South African President later in 2009. This epoch marked a harvest time for Ngcuka conspirators. Zuma became Head of State while Maharaj became his spokesperson eighteen months later. Mo Shaik was deployed as Director-General for State Security Agency while Vusi Mona was rewarded with a position as Deputy Director-General for Communication in the Presidency. Ranjeni was appointed Head of Communication in the newly established Department of Higher Education headed by Blade Nzimande. Hardly a year into office Nzimande fired Ranjeni on suspicion that she was ring leader of senior officials who were plotting against him. Zuma did not intervene when Nzimande fired the former journalist and this didn’t go down well with her.

She was later resurrected as a journalist at This Day where Justice Malala was Editor. Newsroom staff mutinied after Ranjeni wrote a few articles. They wouldn’t want to be associated with a “politician” operating from the newsroom. She later landed at the more upmarket Daily Maverick where she was paraded as an ethical and balanced journalist. In 2017 she was appointed Associate Editor at Tiso Blackstar despite her tainted history of political machinations from the newsroom. Towards ANC Nasrec Conference in 2017, she wrote a series of anti-Zuma articles when it became clear that Zuma’s divorced wife would become a contestant. Ranjeni branded former AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as an extension of her mendacious former husband. When it became clear that Zuma would not occupy the highest office until 2019, Ranjeni started lobbying Economic Freedom Fighters via its National Chairperson Dali Mpofu to support ANC NEC member Pravin Gordhan as interim President. EFF spilled the beans and gave her a cold shoulder.

When news broke that Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane intended to investigate Minister Pravin Gordhan for approving a R1.2m early retirement penalty for former Deputy SARS Commissioner, Ivan Pillay, she questioned the timing of the investigation which came a week before Gordhan was to testify at the State Capture Inquiry. She described Gordhan as being bedevilled by bad luck as he was always being targeted. Consistent with her character as a political dragon in the newsroom, Ranjeni was on stand-by with a defensive article and a thread of tweets hardly an hour after Gordhan’s state capture affidavit was “leaked” to the media. Once again she had reared her dark political face from the newsroom.

In conclusion, I shall highlight distinguishable attributes that make Ranjeni a black sheep from the rest of her peers. I couldn’t help but notice that since she rattled Bulelani Ngcuka, Directors of National Prosecuting Authority never finished their terms. Bulelani Ngcuka, Vusi Pikoli, Menzi Simelane, Mxolisi Nxasana and Shaun Abrahams went down unceremoniously. It’s interesting how she always connives with former members of ANC underground network namely, Jacob Zuma, Mac Maharaj, Mo Shaik and Pravin Gordhan. Incidentally all of them are from KZN. She worked in close contact with ANC NEC members Jacob Zuma, Sbu Ndebele, Mac Maharaj, Blade Nzimande and Pravin Gordhan. She’s a common denominator in leaked documents that involve senior ANC leaders. While media houses ostracise media practitioners from former Gupta owned media outlets, Ranjeni continues to rub shoulders with crème de la crème of the media industry. I hope one day she will respond to her ancestral call as an Imbokodo and don her rightful green blouse.

Nyetanyane is a freelance columnist. You can find on him on his blog  www.uncapturedperspective.blogspot.com

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