Beware “activists” with no knowledge of struggle history

Posted on February 21, 2014


FYI:  This is the Man Friday column of Cape Times assistant editor Tony Weaver who, like myself, has been subject to defamatory comments by a group claiming to support “real transformation” and giving uncritical support to the new regime at Independent Newspapers and the existing political establishment.

OH DEAR, oh dear. Pastor Wesley Douglas (remember him) and his sidekick, Chelsea Amor Lotz (why stop there, Sahara Chardonnay Savannah Sauvignon Blanc Fourie has a much better ring to it?), respectively the convener and deputy convener of the never-before-heard-of-but-suddenly-noisy Movement for the Transformation of Media in South Africa are at it again.

Douglas and Lotz, previously famous for convening a counter-protest outside Newspaper House demanding, among other things, “Fire Tony Weaver” and “Away with Man Friday”, have penned a much-pilloried article on the Politicsweb website titled “The DA and the media: An undemocratic alliance”.

In their new-found role as media analysts of the highest order, Douglas and Lotz put forward their conspiracy theory that the media in South Africa is thoroughly infiltrated by “embedded” Democratic Alliance members and supporters. You can read the full piece, and the comments, on, but I’ll quote one – highly defamatory – verbatim extract:

“If truth be told there are many more closet DA supporting journalists and editors who covertly remain in the media including the likes of Jan Jan Joubert, Gareth Van Onselon (sic), David Mars (sic), Tony Weaver and Terry Bell to mention but a few. They have used and abuse their authority in the media to not report on the facts but in fact further a very deliberate political agenda of the DA.

“These same journalists and newspapers claim to be nonpartisan and politically unbiased in there reporting, whilst in fact they are both overtly and covertly supporting a particular political agenda of the opposition and endangering the true role of journalism and the 4th estate. This position is both duplicitous and deceitful and an abuse of power and certainly not standing up to the standards of good journalism”.

Besides the fact that all five of us who are mentioned are white, the only other thing we have in common is that we are all male. I don’t have more than a reader’s acquaintance with Joubert, Van Onselen and Marrs, but Terry Bell is a personal friend and comrade.

Are Douglas and Lotz even vaguely aware that Terry was the founding principal of the primary education section of the ANC’s school for exiles, the Solomon Mahlangu Freedom College (Somafco) in Tanzania, serving there from 1980 to 1982?

In case they need some more political education, Somafco was founded primarily to further the education of young South Africans fleeing into exile to join Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) after the 1976 Soweto Uprising, and was initially named Mazimbu.

In 1985, Oliver Tambo officially renamed Mazimbu Somafco, after Solomon Mahlangu, an MK soldier who was captured after a gun battle in Goch Street, Johannesburg, on June 13, 1977, along with Mondy Motloung. Mahlangu was hanged by the apartheid government at Pretoria Central Prison on April 6, 1979.

But I would not expect Douglas and Lotz to know this. After all, when I last questioned Douglas about his knowledge of my Struggle history, and why he wanted me fired, he replied that “well, I’m not in the environment where I can talk about it right now. I don’t have my computer with me.”

And perhaps Douglas and Lotz should have consulted with Cosatu, who issued a lengthy statement after Terry’s “Inside Labour” column was suspended by Business Report. Cosatu said inter alia that “although Cosatu did not agree with everything Terry Bell wrote, and he did not always agree with Cosatu, he was by far the best labour reporter and analyst in the South African media, mixing a meticulous commitment to telling the truth about working-class life, and exposing lies and hypocrisy, with a passionate concern for the problems facing working people… (Bell is) one of the most committed advocates of the transformation of the media and indeed society as a whole. No-one has spoken out more consistently and courageously against the ‘small but very privileged and racially definable minority’ who dominate our economy, and has campaigned more passionately in support of the workers and the poor.”

I have asked the question before, and I will ask it again: who is behind the Movement for the Transformation of Media in South Africa and who is funding it?

The ball is in your court, Pastor Douglas and Ms Lotz.