Brand SAs London head John Battersby.

Johannesburg - Former journalists John Battersby and Simon Barber are due to end their careers later this year with Brand South Africa, the government agency that markets the country mainly abroad, after service of about a decade in London and Washington respectively.

This week their jobs were advertised on Brand SA’s website, as well as in a London newspaper.

Brand SA’s US country manager Barber, a former Washington correspondent for Business Day, said yesterday: “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity I have had to serve a country I love and to work with some truly remarkable people.

“I look forward to being able to continue serving South Africa and its people in one guise or another.”

Brand SA’s UK country manager Battersby, former editor of the Sunday Independent, a newspaper in the same stable as this paper, declined to comment.

The two veteran ex-journalists have been with Brand SA for about a decade, since it was known as the International Marketing Council. In that time they pioneered the fine art of bolstering the image of the country – rather than that of the government of the day – in two vital investor markets.

Last week Barber fiercely responded on his blog Izwi to the widely quoted remarks by US law professor, lawyer and commentator Alan Dershowitz, during an interview on CNN about the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, that South Africa was a “failed country”.

“In a genuinely failed country, Mr Pistorius would not be on any kind of trial, let alone one conducted as scrupulously as the case at hand,” Barber retorted. “Not only is justice being done in Pretoria High Court courtroom GD, it is being seen to be done on television and computer screens the world over in real time.”

Barber also attacked Dershowitz’s “insinuation” that Judge Thokozile Masipa, the presiding judge in the trial, would be unable to be unbiased in judging a white defendant.

“What personal knowledge do you have of Judge Masipa to support this? Or is it simply what your gut tells you?

“And if so, would it be unfair to suggest that what was informing your gut was, principally, an unworthy set of reflexive assumptions?

“What you will not see in Judge Masipa’s courtroom are defence attorneys cynically attempting, as they did in the OJ Simpson case, to manipulate the racial fears and biases of jurors to secure an against-the-odds acquittal.

“When Judge Masipa has heard the evidence and reached a verdict, she will be obliged to explain in exhaustive detail how and on what basis she and her two assessors got there.

“Any trace of bias will be grounds for appeal, all the way to the Constitutional Court if necessary.”

It is understood that Battersby and Barber will stay in their positions for nine months after their contracts expire at the end of this month, while replacements are being sought.

Manusha Pillai, spokeswoman for Brand SA, confirmed that Battersby and Barber’s contracts had expired.

Other sources indicated that Brand SA was probably now looking for black people to replace them. - The Star