OPINION: Pooe, Sithole and Mokoena are three brave African women who stood up to a powerful system of doctors, social workers, nurses, and human traffickers. In any society in the world, the media would be applauding them as heroines and targeting those guilty of baby trafficking, writes Sizwe Dlamini.
THE Daily Maverick and News24 mobilised their foot soldiers to discredit the testimony of Dr Mpho Pooe and the mother of the 10 babies Moliehi Maria Sithole, also known as Gosiame. Dr Pooe, who was described as one of the heroines at a media conference that took place in Cape Town last week, was targeted by detractors of Independent Media after her presentation at the media conference.
Dr Pooe is a medical doctor with 13 years of experience in gynaecology. At no stage during the press conference was she presented as a gynaecologist. It was repeatedly stated by the chair of the conference that Dr Pooe has an MBChB (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery degrees) and extensive experience in gynaecology of more than 13 years.
The media statement issued by Independent Media reaffirmed that position.
The facts are that Dr Pooe, who is a well-known gender activist, completed the training but because of her activism for the rights of doctors as the head of SA Medical Association Trade Union (Samatu) and being on the central executive committee of Cosatu, was criticised for her activism and her final qualification for gynaecology was withheld.
Media24 and Daily Maverick should provide evidence of the “lack of experience”. In fact, Dr Pooe has the right to take legal action against both media houses for dragging her name into disrepute.
In the same vein, Sithole is a vulnerable black woman that – like millions of other black women in the count – finds herself unemployed, poverty-stricken and vulnerable. Sithole, by all accounts, was a victim of a group or organised syndicate involved in baby trafficking.
Despite public opinion, Advocate Michael Donen SC’s report, also released at the media conference, confirmed that Sithole was in fact pregnant – therefore babies must have been delivered. While he did not confirm 10 babies, he confirmed that she was in fact pregnant.
He went further and condemned the social workers for having detained Sithole under the Mental Health Act and quoted from the court papers. Donen was clear: “Sithole was illegally detained and the Department of Social Development has a case to answer to.”
Pooe, Sithole and advocate Refiloe Mokoena are three brave African women who stood up to a powerful system of doctors, social workers, nurses, and human traffickers. In any society in the world, the media would be applauding them as heroines and targeting those guilty of baby trafficking, except in South Africa Branko Brkic’s Daily Maverick and Media24, part of Koos Bekker’s group, went to great lengths to discredit these women.
Mokoena, as a lawyer, single-handedly went to great lengths to have Sithole released after she was illegally and criminally incarcerated.
To date, the father, Teboho Tsotetsi, who had opened a criminal case for the missing babies has not received any report on the investigation. There is no doubt that powerful figures are suppressing this investigation.
Daily Maverick is owned by Brkic who arrived from Serbia and little is known about his background. What we do know is the massacre in Serbia indicated the brutality and callousness of the Serbs to the Muslim minority. Daily Maverick and Brkic’s foot soldiers, who can never experience what the black African women must experience when going to state hospitals, exude their white privilege in making a victim of baby trafficking into a monster.
We should not be surprised as it is publicly known that the Daily Maverick is funded by the Oppenheimers and other wealthy South Africans who built their wealth on the destruction of black lives in South Africa during the partied years.
Brkic arrogantly proclaims that his funders don’t influence what is written, if that is the case, then why does he not publicly disclose the funders? Perhaps it is because there are no free lunches and the millions of rands pumped into the Daily Maverick by these funders will allow others to see its business past and history, in perpetuating the narrative that black Africans are not worthy of defence.
In the same vein Bekker’s Media24, born in the womb of apartheid, was not only a beneficiary of PW Botha and the then NP apartheid system but were in fact the media foot soldiers for apartheid. Bekker and his family were involved right at that core of the apartheid security apparatus that was responsible for the destruction of African lives and African families for more than five decades. Apartheid was a crime against humanity and led to the imprisonment of thousands.
What is not spoken about today is the destruction of urban and rural African families and communities, brought on by apartheid. Naspers, Media24 remain complicit in the poverty and vulnerability that black women who bore the harshest treatment under apartheid find themselves in today.
It is time that the Daily Maverick, whose full-time employment compliment is largely white privileged journalists, be exposed for who they really are and who they represent. Media 24 and its owner Naspers have managed to evade scrutiny by even refusing to testify at the Zondo Commission.
If there is one positive that has emerged from the Sithole story, it is that it has exposed white privilege, the disregard for black African women’s lives and the cowardice for not holding to account those in power who are complicit in human trafficking.
The story of Sithole will forever be on their conscience for when they had the opportunity to work with Independent Media to expose human trafficking, They put their white privilege ahead of the needs of Sithole and thousands of other black women whop are victims of these syndicates. Sithole, has every right to ask “where are my babies?”
White privilege has no boundaries and the Daily Maverick and News24 have shown just that in the media space.