Controlling the media is the most important part of any dictatorship.
If you look at almost all coups, you’ll notice that the new leadership almost always takes over the radio and TV stations first.
Over the past two weeks, the calls for SABC head honcho Hlaudi Motsoeneng to resign have grown into a scream being echoed internationally.
You’ll recall that recently I wrote in support of one of Hlaudi’s decisions to no longer screen protest violence on the SABC. And many of you wrote to me in disgust. I still stand by what I said that the constant onslaught of violent images desensitises us as a nation and only leads to even more violence – a vicious cycle that feeds into itself.
But while I agree with the principle, I am outraged at Hlaudi’s dictatorial way of forcing this principle down our throats. The more I’m hearing and reading about his power-hungry management style, the more I’m starting to believe that the man is a psychopath.
Suspending respected journalists, pushing others into a moral corner and walking down the passages, reportedly proclaiming: “I am the board” and “I am the SABC” whenever he is challenged.
The truth is, he is not the SABC. We are the SABC.
And the board is supposed to be our representatives looking after our interests.
My worry has always been that South Africa doesn’t have a national and truly independent electronic media. Millions of South Africans get their daily news from either SABC radio or TV. And if Hlaudi is willy nilly banning certain commentators, cancelling hard-hitting current affairs shows, restricting the airtime of some political parties, showing ministers unveiling their latest projects and only ever showing President Jacob Zuma in a positive light, then what are those people being led to believe?
And most importantly, how are they likely to vote next month, when that is the only information they have?
I suspect that has been his agenda all along. That is why he doesn’t bother to inspire change through his leadership, but rather force it through quickly before election day.
If that means losing some very talented journalists with integrity, then so be it.
And Hlaudi is so liked by Zuma, that he is almost guaranteed a very cushy government job when all this is over.
It’s the classic propaganda machine aimed at shaping the thinking of the masses through misinformation and omission.
No matter how much he denies it, it’s clear that Hlaudi likes to koop gevriet by Zuma. But it’s more sinister than that.
In the end, when you ask how – with all the scandals – the ANC was again able to win a landslide majority in the elections, also ask what info those voters used to make their decisions. And where did the information come from?
And that is why coup leaders understand controlling the flow of information is critical to their success. So if there is going to be one, be sure that with Hlaudi in command of the SABC, the revolution will not be televised.