Sekunjalo’s UCT Cover-Up Continues

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Student Protests and their Impact on Professor Mayosi and the Faculty. The panel had no hesitation in concluding, from the testimony presented, that the eruption of the #FeesMustFall protests a few days after Professor Mayosi took up his post as Dean was the single most influential factor directly and indirectly affecting his Deanship. He was not granted a chance to settle down to try out the plans for the faculty that he had so enthusiastically envisioned during his sabbatical and immediately upon his return.

Enquiry into the Circumstances Surrounding Professor Bongani Mayosi’s Tenure: UCT June 2020

However, the report did not apportion blame but referred to his history of depression. It said his affliction should have been picked up at the university and addressed by the executive.

Sisonke Mlamla IOL 25/6/2020

On 4 August 2018, at the funeral service for world-renowned University of  Cape Town cardiologist, Professor Bongani Mayosi, his widow and sister blamed his suicide on the persecution he had suffered at the hands of the Fees Must Fall thugs who as, our courts have found, tried to burn the university to the ground.

The Sunday Times made their comments the front page lead the next day:

Professor Bongani Mayosi’s soul was “vandalised” by #FeesMustFall protestors, his sister said at the cardiologist’s funeral yesterday.

Ncumisa Mayosi told more than 2000 mourners in Cape Town that the depression that led to her brother’s suicide nine days ago began when he became dean of health sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“He was hardly two weeks in his new position and the protests broke out”, she said. “The vitriolic nature of the students and their do or die attitude vandalised his soul and unravelled him. Their personal insults and abuse cut him to the core, were offensive to his values and were the opposite of everything he was about.” – #FeesMustFall to blame say Mayosi family Sunday Times 5/8/2018

Their statements have been vindicated by a UCT inquiry into his death which has just been made public and I have used the relevant passage from that report as the first anchor quote on this article.

So the UCT inquiry, which lasted for 20 months corroborated the lived experience of Mayosi’s family as articulated by them at the funeral service in Cape Town on 4 August 2018.

It is common cause that he was driven out of his lecture rooms by the Fees Must Fall agitators and humiliated and threatened  day and night  by them even within the supposed sanctuary of his own home, by their telephonic threats and insults.

Here is a report from Iqbal Survé’s IOL website at the time:

Addressing the media on Sunday, UCT vice-chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng said Mayosi’s office was occupied for two weeks by protesting students in 2016.

 “He went on three months’ leave and early this year collapsed because of a psychological attack. Protests in 2016/17 weren’t kind to him as a dean. Students were angry at him, called him a coconut – out of anger. He experienced pressure from staff, students and black students.”

Two years later, as the second anchor quote on this article shows, Iqbal Survé’s Sekunjalo newspapers now try to create the opposite impression and, given the under-oath testimony by former AYO executive, Siphiwe Nodwele, at the Mpati Commission, the reporters concerned could well have been following instructions.

On 24 June, an article by Yoliswa Tswanya claimed that the UCT report ‘vindicated’ the behaviour of the #Fees Must Fall students towards Professor Mayosi. It does not do so and if the report did make that claim it would be in denial of the statement that Mayosi’s sister, Ncumisa, made at his funeral service – that those who were trashing the university at the time “vandalised his soul and unravelled him.”

On 25 June Sisonke Mlamla wrote that the UCT report ‘did not apportion blame’. The most cursory reading of the report shows that that statement is devoid of truth.

Shameful role

The Times Live article accurately sums up the gravamen of the UCT report  and its headline goes the heart and truth of this tragic occurrence:

Shameful role of student protesters laid bare in report on Prof Bongani Mayosi’s 2018 suicide.

 Here are some of the references in the UCT report which refer directly to the cardinal role that the persecution by the #Fees Must Fall students played in his suicide.

Page 6: The panel had no hesitation in concluding, from the testimony presented, that the eruption of the #FeesMustFall protests a few days after Professor Mayosi took up his post as Dean was the single most influential factor directly and indirectly affecting his Deanship. He was not granted a chance to settle down to try out the plans for the faculty that he had so enthusiastically envisioned during his sabbatical and immediately upon his return.

 Page 37: Professor Mayosi and his staff had to work elsewhere during the days when their offices were occupied by the protestors. Each day the protests grew in intensity and then targeted the medical library, and the protesters were also threatening to break into laboratories which contained dangerous chemicals and biological specimens.

Page 44: Unsatisfied with the way that their demands were received, the students occupied the Deans’ suite for almost two weeks under the name #OccupyFHS.

On the other hand, however, there is evidence that students showed an incredible amount of disrespect, both in face-to-face encounters with him and in numerous electronic communication with him. In this regard, some of his colleagues and people close to Professor Mayosi described in the interviews how this deeply distressed him.

P55: Professor Mayosi’s fear of facing the students occurred a few other times.

The persecution of Mayosi by the Fees Must Fall vandals was part of a campaign, fuelled by ethnic hatred and spurred on by Survé, which saw one man die, another beaten to a bloodied pulp, several attempted murder cases, Max Price assaulted, caused campus damage that would cost in excess of a billion rand to repair, saw private vehicles torched during riots, pervasive theft, the media threatened and which adversely impacted on the studies of hundreds of thousands of students. This orchestrated mayhem resulted in incalculable reputational harm to the country after the publication of the Economist’s ‘whiteness burning’ article.

Merciless victimisation

The merciless victimisation of Mayosi by the Cape Times-supported Fallists was hardly surprising because they were utterly different people whose values – or rather the lack of them – were the antithesis of everything he stood for. This factor was stressed by Mayosi’s sister in her funeral oration:

“Their personal insults and abuse cut him to the core, were offensive to his values and were the opposite of everything he was about.”

Not only was he a kind and caring humanist and not motivated by virulent ethnic hatred but he was a world-renowned intellectual who emphatically did not subscribe to the bizarre beliefs about the role of science which were – and no doubt still are – popular with the Fallists

When you compare the attempted slant and spin which Iqbal Survé’s newspapers now try to put on the UCT report  about the factors which contributed to the death of Professor Mayosi with the accurate and truthful reflection of that report in the Times Live article, you begin to understand why a former journalist, Helen Zille, says he has put ‘news manipulation on steroids’.

You begin to understand why the former political editor of the Cape Times, Dougie Oakes, says that lies are an integral element of the Sekunjalo ethos, a truth so evident – see here and here and here and here and here to cite a few examples – that the editor of the newspaper at the time, Aneez Salie, has not bothered to deny the claim by Oakes.

The allegation by Oakes about Sekunjalo Independent Media’s pervasive dishonesty builds on the earlier evidence of this fact which was revealed by Terry Bell. It explains why the Survé biography,  Paper Tiger  by Alide Dasnois and Chris Whitfield is subtitled ‘Iqbal Survé – and the downfall of Independent Newspapers’ and why another former and disillusioned Independent Media editor, Fikile-Ntsikelelo Moya writes:

‘It is now history that those who were critical of Iqbal Survé have been vindicated.

‘Independent Media under Survé cannot be accused of being there for the glory of journalism or for the plurality of views.’

What Oakes experienced while working at the Cape Times validates the charge by one of the country’s most esteemed investigative journalists, Sam Sole, who writes that ‘The soul is dead at Independent’.

Proxy war

This article, written from a media perspective, looks at the role played by Iqbal Survé and the Cape Times in the sequence of events leading up to the death of Professor Bongani Mayosi and the consequences of this newspaper being used in a proxy war against former Vice-Chancellor, Dr Max Price and the University of Cape Town.

What is beyond debate is that if Professor Mayosi had not joined UCT and if the #Fees Must Fall movement had not existed, he would be alive today.

As the Vice-chancellor at UCT at the time, Dr Max Price explained in an interview with Professor Jonathan Jansen for the latter’s book, As By Fire: The End of the South African University, that he became estranged from Survé and you can read the text of that interview here. His contentions in this regard were further substantiated in the honours thesis by UCT student, Ricky Stoch who conducted extensive interviews with the Fees Must Fall leaders at UCT. They testified to the encouragement the Fallists received from Iqbal Survé and alleged that he financed the Cape High Court battles which Chumani Maxwele (who was unemployed at the time) waged against UCT – a claim subsequently denied by Maxwele.

Jansen writes in the book (pages 208-209) about the weaponising of the Cape Times against Price and UCT:

‘What appears to be a highly personalised pursuit of a university vice-chancellor by the owner of a newspaper and his editors and reporters is unusual even by the erratic standards of political reporting in South Africa.’

 Ferial Haffajee was to highlight this abuse of the Sekunjalo newspapers in a subsequent article.

 Iqbal Survé’s support for the Fallists whose persecution led to the death of Professor Bongani Mayosi’s death was openly declared from the start. In this YouTube clip he threatens that opposition to the behaviour and conduct of the Fallists would be resisted by him and his newspapers.

You can read a transcription of that speech here and in it he called for a purge of white UCT staff – something which became de facto policy at the former Argus Group newspapers after the Sekunjalo takeover in 2013.

Arrest Max Price

Suddenly, a previously unknown reporter, Carlo Petersen, started getting front page lead after front page lead with articles headlined ‘Arrest Max Price’ and ‘Apartheid-style’ UCT Lashed’.

To equate UCT with apartheid is a vile lie and a predictable Sekunjalo smear.

In 1972, UCT students protesting against the apartheid government’s education policy were chased into St George’s Cathedral and assaulted by police.

In 1978 I was transferred by the SABC to Cape Town as a television news reporter and covered clashes between UCT students protesting National Party education policy and the security police during the tenure as Vice-Chancellor of Stuart Saunders.

Following him came Mamphele Ramphele and Helen Zille was UCT spokesperson at the time.

You would have to be venomously delusional to suggest that Ramphele and Zille promoted the education policies of the National Party or, for that matter, that Max Price did so. Yet, in his Fallist-promoting proxy war against UCT and Max Price, Iqbal Survé was happy to allow the Cape Times to propagate this hate-promoting journalism.

It was the Fallists who sought to introduce racially-segregated meals on the UCT campus, a Balkanisation of the institution which would have horrified Rosa Parks but delighted George Wallace and a string of Bantustan supporters from H F Verwoerd to Lucas Mangope.

The Cape Times campaign against UCT has comprised two elements, both inimical to the cause of ethical journalism.

The first was outright attack.

As our courts have found, petrol was brought onto the campus in February 2016 with malice aforethought. It was used to torch the Jammie Shuttle bus and other vehicles on campus and to firebomb the office of Max Price.  No effort was made by Carlo Petersen to photograph the damage to the office of Price or to interview him about this arson but City Press did. Several months later after Price was assaulted by the Fees Must Fall rabble, the Cape Times did not interview Price while faithfully reflecting the mood swings  of the misogynistic arsonist, Chumani Maxwele whose hatred of white people was constantly manifest.

As I pointed out at the time, the Sunday after the failed attempt to burn down the university, this wanton destruction was condemned by Barney Mthombothi in the Sunday Times and Ferial Haffajee in City Press.  Aneez Salie chose, instead, to attack Max Price.

The second element of the proxy war by the Cape Times against UCT and Max Price has been censorship by omission, the hallmark of the propagandist.

As I pointed out in another article at the time, Carlo Petersen, withheld from Cape Times readers the fact that a Cape High Court judgment implicated the Fees Must Fall Shackville protest leaders in the arson at UCT. He was later to sink even further into the nadir of this campaign when he wrote an article in which Max Price was falsely accused of ‘acting in bad faith’.  This, in my opinion, was an appalling abuse of media power and influence, but Petersen was rewarded by being promoted by Iqbal Survé shortly thereafter.

As the recent attempts by Sekunjalo Independent Media to shift the focus and most of the blame for the death of Professor Bongani Mayosi from the Fallists to his colleagues indicate, the legacy of Carlo Petersen lives on long after he, like so many others, has left the employ of Iqbal Survé.

The truth, as Bongani Mayosi’s bereaved widow and sister indicated at his funeral service two years ago, is very different.

They blamed the Fallists and the death of their loved one is summed up in a contemporary comment in Business Day by Simon Lincoln Reader:

RMF didn’t fail just because it was the most confusing, divisive and xenophobic campaign to have featured since 1994, but because it was executed by vile personalities.

The recently-released UCT report confirms this truth and no amount of Sekunjalo Independent Media Fake News smoke and mirrors spin will convince those who attended the funeral service of Professor Bongani Mayosi otherwise.

In August, SANEF’s commission of inquiry into unethical journalism which is headed by retired judge Kathleen Satchwell, is expected to reveal its conclusions.

One hopes that it will take cognizance of the latest example of Sekunjalo Independent Media news bias.

 

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Ed Herbst started his news career as a photographer with the Natal Witness in 1968 but quickly switched to reporting while retaining an interest in photography. He joined the SABC in its Pretoria news office as a camera reporter in 1977, one year after television was introduced in South Africa. In 1978 he was seconded to the SABC’s Windhoek office for six months to cover the run-up to the country’s UN-monitored election and was then posted to the SABC’s Sea Point news office. He asked for early retirement in 2005 because of pervasive SABC corruption, news censorship and unaddressed abusive treatment of staff. From 2007 to 2009 he was employed as a consultant in the media department of the Cape Town municipality but became a pensioner when personal circumstances forced him to retire. He now writes without remuneration for local websites about the interface between media and politics. He is writing a book on media capture after 1994.