By Zunaid Moti
A free press is necessary for a healthy democracy, but the way amaBhungane is allowed to conduct itself and abuse the name of journalism for cheap propaganda is truly sick.
Working with puppet organisations fooled by its Don Quixote disguise, it has continued to harass myself, the Group, and associates with relentless sets of questions over the past few months in an obvious scramble to find something, or rather anything worth reporting.
And despite their best efforts, they have had to resort to tabloid stories that distort the facts if not outright abandoning them, while dropping all pretence of objectivity.
But through drawing on their extensive network of unquestioning and loyal cronies, they continue to perform media blitzkriegs and quickly disseminate their vitriol and conspiracy theories with the hope of inflicting maximum reputational damage while propping up their fake credibility.
Whether you agree with the Moti Group’s legal strategy or not, it’s clear that amaBhungane and Managing Director Sam Sole have a particular hard-on for me and the Group.
So, just who are the hired guns behind this renegade outfit? And what are their motives?
First, we have capo Sam Sole.
Sole has built his name on supposedly using his time in the military as a soldier for the apartheid government to write a “secret” exposé on police abuses. This was conveniently under an unverified pseudonym.
But whether his claims are true or not, what is true is that Sole’s father was a high-ranking member of the apartheid government and served as an ambassador for the government for many years.
This raises several questions. Why did Sole not avoid the draft, as so many of his peers did?
If he was so morally opposed to serving in the apartheid military, then why did he choose to join “the ugly reality of apartheid, rather than run away from it”, as he has claimed?
Are we then to simply take his word that he was innocent of any atrocities because he is now a journalist? And if we are to somehow accept these claims, then why has he never aired his father’s role in the apartheid government?
And is it all another stunning coincidence that the vast majority of amaBhungane’s critiques under his stewardship have targeted black-owned businesses and black leaders?
Even where its journalists have in fact failed to prove their theories or provide any real evidence, instead resorting to conjecture, innuendo, and hearsay?
Next, we have footsoldier and amaBhungane made man Micah Reddy.
Interestingly, after amaBhungane and Sam Sole received some heat from other organisations pointing out a pattern of clear bias and discrimination in their reporting, myself and the Moti Group suddenly began receiving questions from Reddy, a person of colour. Given their nature, it seems that Reddy may be being used as a frontman to drive Sole’s agenda.
Digging into Reddy’s background, the plot only thickens, as Reddy’s father was none other than Govindsamy ‘Govin’ Reddy, the media lord who served as the Head of Current Affairs at the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) under the Mugabe regime.
But despite his somewhat limited experience in broadcasting, Govin Reddy was later appointed as CEO of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Radio in 1994, in large part thanks to his apartheid credentials.
According to a report in the Sunday Star and Times Live, he was earning R300,000 annually back then, which, adjusted for inflation, would be equivalent to R1.4 million today.
In contrast, senior newspaper journalists were earning a modest R50,000 per annum, which would be about R242,000 today.
In other words, it appears that the Reddy family enjoyed the many comforts and benefits of cadre deployment.
He was later promoted to deputy chief executive of the SABC and expected to take the top position when its CEO eventually left the organisation, but another person was appointed CEO instead. In response, he famously and ironically cried affirmative action and racism.
After swiftly departing the SABC, he became the CEO of the Mail and Guardian. And in August 2003, during his tenure, none other than Sam Sole published what appears to be his first story on the newspaper’s website.
So, not only was Govin clearly known to Sam Sole, but perhaps even very well known before Micah Reddy was “coincidentally” hired years later by amaBhungane as an investigator.
And in another coincidence, Govin worked at the International Marketing Council for South Africa while none other than Ajay Gupta served on its board, although the link has never been mentioned by amaBhungane in its extensive Gupta reporting.
Finally, while amaBhungane consistently and loudly protests any scrutiny into its affairs, its reporters are not only relying upon unverified information supplied by Clinton van Niekerk, a former Moti Group employee facing criminal charges.
But now, it has teamed up with Frikkie Lutzkie – the Moti Group’s opponent in an ongoing legal battle.
Ignoring Lutzkie’s sordid past, questionable character, and dubious motivations, Reddy even used a link supplied by Lutzkie to listen in on his recent court hearing with the Moti Group.
Suspiciously, its latest article criticising the Group came out shortly after this hearing. In fact, its latest Twitter smear campaign against the Group began during the hearing.
Is amaBhungane now supporting Lutzkie’s attempts to pressure the Group into giving in to his extortion attempts? Time will tell.
In summary, amaBhungane is now rolling in the mud rather than digging any real dirt to further its personal campaign against myself and the Group.
Its focus could be on exposing real evidence of corruption involving state officials or impacting listed companies, or chasing any number of stories that otherwise hold true public interest or value.
Instead, a private black-owned business remains the target in its sights to push its discriminatory and personal vendetta.
Their continued attacks on me and the Group are an object lesson in what can go wrong when sketchy and unscrupulous individuals are allowed to exploit the power and privileges of journalism.