Sunday, February 21, 2010
So I don't venture into political commentary too regularly, but I thought I'd highlight the role of evidence in the recent ANCYL vs. The Star conflict. The Star ran a report on the lifestyle of SA leaders, beginning with Julius Malema. ANCYL then responded saying that the report was 'untrue and opportunistic'. So let's go with the claims and counterclaims, the evidence presented, and the interpretation of this by the parties. One general comment, the ANCYL representatives evidently don't understand redundancy because they kept referring to 'untrue fabrication's, by its nature a fabrication is untrue, else it would not be fabrication, therefore calling it an untrue fabrication simply evidences your own silliness. Anyway, on to the claims and the evidence.
- The Star claimed that Malema owned two houses worth R4,6 million that he bought with cash. ANCYL responded saying he didn't buy them for cash but 'like every body [sic] else, he has purchased whatever houses or property registered in his name through banks.' The relevant evidence here is embodied in housing deeds and reports claiming the houses are worth R3,6 million and R1 million each, not whether the houses were bought with cash or not. Does ANCYL produce counter-evidence about him not owning the houses, which is what is relevant given that the article is about Malema's lifestyle? No, they do not produce such evidence.The argue that the report is false because Malema did not buy the houses for 'cash'. Irrelevant. Fail ANCYL.
- The Star claimed that Malema had Johnny Walker gold worth R700 and Moët et Chandon 'French Champagne [sic - redundant because Champagne must be French] at his house warming party and that a famous DJ did the music. The Star did not know how much the party cost in total. ANCYL could provide the evidence by giving records of the party's cost and confirm whether or not these items were consumed. They could provide photographs of the party which may or may not indicate whether such beverages were consumed. This would be evidence. My quick inspection suggests The Star had the right price for Johnny Walker Gold, though it could have been donated. Even so that would be relevant. Fail ANCYL.
- Staying on the party, The Star reported, "A police reservist said at the time that he was assaulted by the youth league leader. Neighbours complained about the noise and mess that Malema's party had caused." ANCYL did not comment on this and did not present any counterevidence, that is they did not produce evidence indicating that Malema did not assault the reservist and they did not produce evidence indicating that neighbors did not complain about the party. Not particularly relevant, I know, but still potentially important. Fail ANCYL.
- The Star reported that sources claim that Malema's salary is R20 000 a month. ANCYL countered by saying that was 'far from the truth'. That doesn't help. They should print his payslip and lead the way against corruption by making his bank transactions transparent and provide evidence that Malema isn't involved in any corrupt relationships. That would help to explain how Malema is living beyond his means. Maybe his salary is greater than R20 000, which would in itself be valuable public information. Fail ANCYL.
- The Star made the following claim about vehicles: "The 28-year-old politician owns a black Mercedes-Benz AMG, which retails at R734 000, and reportedly drives an Aston Martin and a red Range Rover Sport, too. Last night he went to a lecture at Wits University in a brand-new white Range Rover - with no number plates - which sells for R1,2m." ANCYL responded by saying, "The second untrue fabrication is an impression created through the report that Cde Julius owns four expensive cars. We like to state on record that Cde Julius has one car in his name." The Star did not say Malema owned four cars, they said he owns one and has driven or been reported as driving another three. The one he owns is worth R734 000. What would be relevant to know is how he afforded that car given the evidence about his salary. Also, it would be relevant to know who owns the other three vehicles. It is of public interest if an official in the youth league of the national governing party owns and drives vehicles that are priced more than houses in some areas of South Africa. Fail ANCYL.
- The Star reports that Malema is the director of four companies: 101 Junjus Trading CC, Blue Nightingale Trading 61, Ever Roaring Investment and SGL Engineering Projects. The relevance, again, is that he is a leader in the youth league of the national governing party. The Star has the evidence of this in copies of registration documents or something similar (I assume, The Star doesn't say in the report). ANCYL did not respond to this claim. Fail ANCYL.
- The Star reported that Malema attended a press conference in a Gucci suit, and sported a Breitling watch worth about R250 000 (prices for these are obtainable online and, I assume, this can be verified photographically). ANCYL did not respond to this. Again, where Malema gets the money for these items is relevant because of his role as in the youth league of the national governing party. Fail ANCYL.
- The Star followed journalistic protocols and contact Floyd Shivambu, ANCYL spokesperson for his comment on the report. He said, "I think you need to rethink what you are doing. What business is this of yours? How dare you call me and ask for comment on this?" Let's consider these three sentences. The first sounds like a threat (See also the report by ANCYL linked to above with more threats). The second asks about whose business is it; as I already explained it is in the public interest to know about the spending, salary, funding and relationships of its leaders, which explains why it's The Star's business. Moreover, Pravin Gordhan, SA Finance Minister has explained that targeted personal audits would occur to increase transparency and decrease corruption. On the third sentence, it shows that Shivambu evidently does not understand journalistic integrity which might require that the newspaper contact a spokesperson before publishing a potentially damaging story. Fail ANCYL.