It’s a bit tragic that National Treasury has to put out a ‘fake news’ alert as a well-co-ordinated campaign against it begins to peak ahead of the budget. Unprecedented in its intensity, the campaign neatly ties in with the political ambition of the ANC Zupta faction to remove Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan in a cabinet re-shuffle that allows Msholozi to bring in his ex-wife, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, in advance of her succeeding him, thus ensuring as safe an exit as possible. Her interim portfolio is not the issue; as his successor, she would have his back – a pre-requisite for his political survival, not to mention ducking a possible jail sentence. The other disturbing aspect for journalists who’ve been around since the days of PW Botha and seen some pretty hectic dirty political tricks, is how easily some newspapers have picked up and spread the propaganda, seemingly without discernment. If discernment there was, it points to where the ANC-supporting newspapers’ loyalties lie in the divided ruling party. It’s a space worth watching. – Chris Bateman
By Matthew le Cordeur
“National Treasury wishes to caution the public and media houses regarding the disinformation and ‘fake news’ campaign directed towards its leadership as it prepares for the 2017 Budget,” it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“In the past few days, various attacks and unfounded allegations have been made with the intention to misdirect the leadership’s focus,” it said.
“Coupled with that are allegations that are reported without any further interrogation or establishing the veracity thereof.
“We view this as yet another nefarious attempt to distract the institution from focusing on the important work of preparing for the budget to be presented on the 22nd February 2017.
“In the past two days, the National Treasury media monitoring team has picked up that, whilst the already exposed fake news sites are being taken down, new fake news sites have arisen.
“As the South Africans are waiting in anticipation on what the coming budget holds for them, National Treasury commits not to lose focus from its work and is steadfast in presenting a budget which promotes inclusive economic growth.”
Media “noise” regarding Gordhan is escalating at a time when the minister is under pressure to deliver a budget that somehow balances the need for the fiscus to avoid a ratings downgrade with President Jacob Zuma’s plans for radical economic transformation.
All this while he faces off in court battles with the (BLF) Black First Land First (which wants him to comply with the Ciex recommendations over Bankorp), and the Guptas (who Gordhan is seeking court protection from regarding intervening in their bank blacklisting).
The noise levels have increased to a point where Treasury had to put out two fires in the media in the last 24 hours. This latest statement echoes its frustration of planning a budget within a constrained political environment.
Treasury criticised a report in The Star on Wednesday regarding a battle over the social grants system with Minister of Social Development Bathabile Dlamini and a false report in The Citizen about Gordhan holding an urgent South African Airways (SAA) board meeting to fire chairperson Dudu Myeni. The SAA story first emerged on Black First Land First website, Black Opinion.
In the last few days, media reports have also cited Oakbay’s February 10 court affidavit, which quoted Ajay Gupta saying he denied meeting Mcebisi Jonas and that he was “blatantly dishonest”.
On 3 February, President Jacob Zuma’s son Edward cited the BLF court case, saying in a statement that Gordhan is among the “greedy” leaders allegedly using government to “amass wealth”.
All this has led to rumour mongering, particularly regarding the future of Gordhan and Jonas at Treasury. – Fin24