When the headlines proclaimed that Mmusi Maimane had compared himself to Nelson Mandela, calling himself ‘Mini-Mandela”, everyone shook their heads.
No, Mmusi, that was not a good move.
Twitter went into a frenzy, and the memes and roasts soon followed. Fair enough, because the comparison is laughable and the DA are in the midst of a fiasco that future generations will look at as a textbook case of how to bungle a sure thing.
Especially in the Western Cape – what is this mess?
A tiny, tiny snapshot of the mockery:
You can find more of the Maimane roasting on The South African.
Here’s the thing, though. His words were distorted, and the more conspiratorial out there would claim that is intentional, to throw him under the bus.
Here’s what Mmusi actually said, which you can see from around the 55-second mark below:
If only he wasn’t putting on that “I’m speaking to black people” accent, though.
When that clip started doing the rounds, starting with prominent South African Twitter user Tumi Sole, that last bit about the comparison being an insult had been removed:
In his own words!
— Tumi Sole (@tumisole) April 27, 2018
Well, that kind of changes the meaning of what he was saying, doesn’t it? Some people got it:
When News24 covered the story, they reported Maimane’s quote as follows, and included Sole’s video:
“People phone me. They are on Twitter, they are on Facebook. They say Mmusi Maimane, you are a mini-Mandela,” said Maimane on Friday, according to Daily Sun.
At least they included a few tweets about it being a distortion of Maimane’s words, like that one cited above, but Twitter isn’t known for being a place of reason and level heads.
Let’s get one thing straight – Mmusi and his party have plenty to answer for, and the DA is currently a mess, but that’s exactly why distortions like this aren’t necessary.
It would be like a leading American news outlet making up fake news about Donald Trump, when he provides all the ammunition you need every time he opens his mouth or bangs out a tweet.
Over on the Daily Maverick Geordin Hill-Lewis [pictured below], the Chief of Staff in the DA Leader’s Office, wrote an op-ed piece decrying how the story was covered.
He’s obviously keen to clear Mmusi’s name, and paint the DA in a flattering light, but he makes some good points:
All of the journalists, senior editors and publications who jumped onto this story relied on these initial distorted reports. No one checked back to source. Their glee at the chance to hang Maimane out to dry trumped just about every journalistic rule. Not only was the story false, it seems to have been deliberately falsified.
This is not a lone example either. The Mail & Guardian’s scathing “hanging judge” obituary of Judge Ramon Leon – who happened to be Tony Leon’s father – was also lifted straight from deliberate Twitter propaganda. Even the initial correction was lifted from more fake reporting. It took three attempts and two fumbling apologies to get it vaguely right. If there’s a chance to tarnish the name of the DA or anyone associated with it, then it seems proper journalistic practice can wait.
A couple of weeks before that, we had to read in The Star about Mayor Herman Mashaba’s administration’s massive R3-billion irregular expenditure nightmare. It didn’t take long for people to point out that two-thirds of this amount, according to the Auditor General report quoted in the piece, was in fact racked up by the outgoing ANC government in Johannesburg and not by Mashaba’s administration. But by then the damage was done. Again, the haste in damning the DA meant that normal, ethical journalism went out the window.
Maybe it’s because ridiculing the ANC has become too easy?
Anyway, the point is that there are many DA shortcomings on which one can focus. Did South African media outlets intentionally distort this ‘Mini-Mandela’ saga to paint Mmusi in a bad light, and did social media users lap it up and hop on the bandwagon?
That’s your call to make.
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