Onkgopotse JJ Tabane
Onkgopotse JJ Tabane

Media tribunal: Why all the fuss?

Laugh out loud on Sunday
Methinks the media tribunal is a good idea after all. For the first time after 16 years of democracy politicians will have a haven where they can run off to appeal against the media’s nosy ways. The public will also have a well deserved break from all the exposés on corruption — the Oilgates and the Travelgates of this world — things that really put politicians in a bad light. I mean, who wants to know what Blade Nzimande did with a bag full of money? Who wants their children subjected to the latest misdemeanours coming out of Nkandla? Who wants to know about bags of money being exchanged between a top cop and drug  lords? Let’s face it, these are things that make our country look bad and the only window through which they can peep and see the dirty linen is the via the media. So it makes sense that some other authority oversee the media’s overzealousness to expose the so-called truth. This tribunal will ensure that anything even mildly embarrassing to any minister or head of state — here and in the rest of the continent — be overruled and the perpetrators swiftly punished.

It will ensure there are real and harsh sentences for any misreporting of any kind, to ensure that the media is disciplined and taught a lesson in nation building. For a democracy as young as our own it has only caused grief in the face of our continent to be seen to be a place where the media can do pretty much what they want. This has caused us to fall below the standards of our fellow African countries, where journalists are vetted before a visit, let alone reporting on anything. In our fellow African countries, journalists are maimed and killed for poking fun at presidents. Here, down south, cartoonists can paint a picture of icon Madiba dead and our horny president, and get away with it. Editors routinely lambaste the president for the smallest of things like a collapsing office or a lack of a backbone — a stock-in-trade of many African presidents. I now understand why Floyd has started his own FBI-type investigation capacity because the tribunal will need some kind of investigators who can dig up dirt on journalists. So I guess President Zuma’s question: “For what?”, when he heard of Floyd’s mission, has been answered.

The ruling ANC is faced with an ineffective and disorganised opposition that can’t really stop it from implementing the tribunal. So what is left is to work out the modalities.

The seat of the tribunal
Given that the legislature is in Cape Town and administrative capital is Pretoria, and the fact that the Constitutional Court is in Jo’burg, we’re running out of cities. So why not settle for Polokwane, where it all originated in 2007?

The commissioners
The following commissioners will make for excellent judges of the tribunal

  • Blade Nzimade: He of the R 500 000 fame.
  • Floyd Shivhambu: He of the “dig-up-the-dirt” shame.
  • Jackie Selebi: He of a “finish and klaar” notoriety
  • Pik Botha: As a reminder of the the Info Scandal
  • Andre Visagie: To touch all the media on their studios
  • Leonard Chuene: He of the Caster lies scandal.
  • Jon Qwelane: He of the homophobia shame
  • Schabir Shaik: He, suffering from a terminal illness

The chairmanship of the tribunal will be a hot contest between Carl Niehaus and Jesse Duarte, both of whom are immediately available to keep the media on their toes given their situation of being unemployed. They both have earned their place in building excellent relations with the press during their time as ANC spin doctors and have always used the tribunal to threaten media that was out of line. They will now have to actually carry out their threats in a structured way, where harsh mandatory sentences will be dished out to truant editors who dare report of why people, such as Duarte, quit the presidency and why Niehaus is in so much debt.

PS: It’s time that we learned to say what we mean. There’s really nothing about accountability of the media in the call for a tribunal. The media, much like the Scorpions, are seen to have “abused” their freedom and have yet not learned that you can’t exercise such freedoms over those that fought to get them for you. The Scorpions are now no more despite the screams and shouts of almost all of bright society. The media and its freedom will go the same way no matter how many articles bemoan what is about to befall what has been a paradise of press freedom. Watch this space. Oh, I almost forgot that the mother of our nation could also be in the running for the life presidency of the tribunal. Remember what she said on the sidelines of the Caster Semenya rally at the airport last year? She reminded the media that her and her fellow freedom fighters for press freedom have fought to make the media free and the media must reward them with some kind of deference and stop reporting things like gangster soccer teams and murderers and fraud as the only things that characterise black people.

I know what will make this whole fuss about media tribunal go away. Stop corruption — then the media will have little or nothing to report about. We won’t be seeing stories of ministers having their fingers in the pie. Stop incompetence and blind deployment, then babies in a high-tech and well resourced hospital won’t die of sheer negligence. The media will then have to find something else to report on, stuff that won’t need any tribunal, believe me.

  • Onkgopotse JJ Tabane is chief executive of Oresego International Business Advisors  and an accredited associate of the IIB international. He writes in  his personal capacity