Adil Nchabeleng is the president of Transform RSA.
Adil Nchabeleng is the president of Transform RSA.

I was targeted by amaBhungane's agent journalists

By Adil Nchabeleng Time of article published May 21, 2020

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NORMALLY I would not bother myself with much of what is written in the mainstream media because most of it is reporting SA's dynamic social, economic, political and cultural daily happenings, developments and normal interactions. But when that common norm is suddenly disrupted by a new trend of draconian censorship and a police state style of events championed by what used to be mainstream media and its allies then we ought to be concerned as citizens and make observations as well as raise serious questions. 

It is a fact that mainstream media has slowly eroded our rights to enjoy certain freedoms. We have all seen with recent evidence mainstream media's latest project through an article published on which the article is targeting vocal social media activists with the aim of censoring them by using various forms of abuse, intimidation and silencing, targeting social media activists from been active and fierce defenders of their democratic rights to free speech and freedom of expression.

Of late amaBhungane has been running spying and PsyOp (psychological operation) projects aimed at terrorising people who have active views on Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

On 18 May 2020 amaBhungane published an article by Susan Comrie, Micah Reddy and Sam Sole with the headline: Battleground social media: How disinformation, propaganda and manipulation shape our online discourse. It goes on to say: From Putin, Trump and Zuma directly to your screen – or via a myriad of intermediaries – the goal is the same: influence. In this multi-part series, we explore how disinformation and propaganda flood our timelines and unmask some of the players involved.

The article follows a series of calls and messages which various people have reported receiving from amaBhungane journalists who have been fielding neo-Hitlerism type of so-called investigative journalism.

I too have received such calls and messages. I was under the impression that these were innocent calls inquiring about my views and analytical opinion about general issues in South Africa. This was until the conversations turned into Gestapo-style questioning which was then followed by a series of condescending messages.

Their targets are anyone who features on their list of agendas, ranging from tackling people who speak in support of base-load energy, nuclear, coal industry, transport, land, economy, RET, politics, unions that do not toe the line, to issues on civil society, anti-privatisation and other economic and political-related campaigns, and targeting supporters and of the former president Jacob Zuma and those who support the nationalization of the Reserve Bank etc. The list of questions and inquiries are crazy. The list just goes on and on. I mean the series of questions were totally ridiculous. 

The agent journalist, in particular, kept on demanding explicit declaratory answers as if conducting an interrogation in a closed room with me handcuffed to a steel table. And when you don't answer satisfactorily, just like in an interrogation the agent journalist would exert undue force and keep on insisting that you give them their version of a confession to the story that they are developing. It was an interrogation more than anything.

There were points within the interview process where even when I repeatedly made it clear that what I was saying was off the record, I was clearly told that whatever I said is on the record. I felt highly uneasy with the style deployed in this matter.

Some of the questions were just nonsensical and irrational. But it was clearly aimed at intimidating me and others who received the same calls and letter message from amaBhungane. 

I am no longer convinced of the credibility of amaBhungane especially given these new tactics of their new version of so-called investigation journalism. They are abusing the credibility of the media industry and destroying the credibility of mainstream media. Because if this is the new norm, no-one will take seriously anything that is written by mainstream media, especially people who are inclined to critical thinking.

Because these media platforms are no longer serving to preserve the right to freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Mainstream media is now openly running political agendas and playing power games.

The likes of amaBhungane and mainstream media allies are now playing partisan politics and working for funded agendas and they are using their mainstream media platform as a tool to divide and rule, develop and create whatever narrative suits their agenda to protect those of their allies who are in power. 

The newly deployed tactics and strategy used by the likes of amaBhungane and its mainstream media allies is a testament to this. What is even more concerning is that these NGO organisations, in particular, are fully funded by economic, political social, cultural and judicial power in South Africa.

So those that pose a threat to such agendas are targeted, bullied, intimidated, censored and silenced using organisations like amaBhungane and other mainstream media outlets. It is a fact now that this organisation known as amaBhungane is eroding the basic fundamental rights which we have fought hard for and live to protect. They have no right to usurp the powers of the state and use those powers to operate as shadow quasi-state security – military and intelligence organisation which now censors ordinary citizens' freedoms and rights by blackmailing outspoken civil society activists using free social media outlets.

South Africa is a highly contested socio-economic and political space and those that operate within the shadow as deep state funds operations of organisations like amaBhungane to curtail civil liberties and freedoms. Their biggest threat is that more and more people are speaking out and airing their discontent with the way things are going in South Africa. And most are now learning and uncovering the truth of how SA's economy and politics have been manipulated to advantage the elite within our society.

amaBhungane is furthering those interests and protecting their funders who give them agendas to pursue as a project. It is clear for all to see that amaBhungane's agency project uses similar tactics and strategies employed and copied from an apartheid military and security police handbook used during apartheid to rein in, traumatize, silence, arrest and secretly detain all those people who were fierce activists fighting for liberation against the apartheid state regime. 

What is very strange is that here you have an ordinary NGO which is now conducting targeted secret spying and PsyOps operations on ordinary citizens who have an active life on social media by secretly raiding their social media Whatsapp groups and Twitter accounts and accusing them of all sorts of things. amaBhungane has now elevated its status to that of a law enforcement agency with privileges and peers to conduct security and military-style investigations and classified operations.

This ordinary private organisation which is not even an organ of state is busy destroying the foundation of our democratic Constitution and attacking the Bill of Rights enshrined in our Constitution. They are using covert censoring and silencing tactics to clamp down and shut down social media activists who are challenging the current status quo and questioning those in authority. 

So why would amaBhungane confer upon itself a status of combined police and military intelligence agencies capabilities yet having no such powers in law? It is because of the recent trend emerging in SA whereby various elite groups have set up a quasi-state operating deep within the shadows of South Africa with powerful links to people with authority within the state, and from the shadow controlling day to day activities and affairs of the state and monitoring ordinary people's daily lives. Those that are perceived to be a threat are quickly handled and neutralized through all forms of blackmailing and PsyOps projects. 

And amaBhungane is part of this Deep State web of shadow operations unfolding by the day. We are witnessing this in their new series of articles which attacks and is trying to destroy the credibility of various activists and social media regulars and organisations like Numsa and its leadership. including Numsa Investment company.

This is the first series of attacks and censoring targets. There will be more coming in their follow-up articles. These articles are just a smear campaign to erode the credibility of individuals and activities. Their aim is to cast doubt on an individual's credibility. They will isolate and censor all who they have targeted as enemies of the Deep State. They have a target list already. They will write articles and spin the views and stories to cast doubt and divide forces who are aligned to a common cause of total liberation from colonialism in South Africa.

Anyone who questions the establishment and the current regime and speaks in support of economic transformation and the return of the land will be targeted and censored. 

As free and active SA citizens (sons and daughters of the soil) we must never be intimidated by these charlatans and their newly deployed tactics adopted from old apartheid scripts continuing the existence of apartheid to further divide and rule us Africans while excluding us from participating in the majority of our economy and getting back the full share of our stolen land and getting our share of the minerals and resources wealth. We are not afraid of anything or anyone and will not be silenced.

* Adil Nchabeleng is the president of Transform RSA. 

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL.

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