The highly successful and well-organised fourth policy conference of the ANC appears to have shocked and traumatised many within the media industry.
Then-ANC president Oliver Tambo, in his political report to the ANC's Morogoro consultative conference in 1969, warned: "Imperialist agents are busy trying to foment division, conflict and desertions in the ranks of the liberation movements and progressive organisations. The agents of reaction use all methods, ranging from the exploitation of genuine grievances and differences to naked slander, distortions, lies and bribery. Efforts to discredit and denigrate the liberation movements and their leadership, both among the people and internationally, are one of the main objects of the psychological warfare conducted through the radio, press and whispering campaigns."
These words come to mind in the aftermath of the ANC's policy conference and the way it has been reported. About 4 000 delegates from all corners of the country attended. The main function of the conference was to have ANC branches gathering to engage with policy documents and questions, to refine and fine-tune them before the national conference in Mangaung in December.
Before the conference, the SA media had predicted that it would be chaotic and show deep divisions within the ANC. Sustaining the myth of infighting and an ANC that will implode became difficult once the conference had started, as it proved to be well-organised, orderly and focused.
To sustain negativity, journalists began to create stories quoting faceless sources who fed journalists with fabrication and lies, thus underlining what OR said many years ago.
For some months, journalists had been trying to set the tone of the conference by predicting all sorts of activities. They said the ANC Youth League expulsions would be raised and would dominate the conference or even derail it. They would not listen when told that the matter was not on the agenda. When it did not happen, they had to find something. Suddenly there were exclusive interviews with a person who has been expelled by the ANC! And again this meant nothing to delegates. They continued focusing on policy issues.
In desperation, the media also tried to pit the president of the ANC against the deputy president. The conference, we were told, would be about the battle for succession between the two and a third natoinal executive committee member (NEC), although this was not an elective where preferences of leadership choices would dominate. …