Africans do colonials dirty work

Date: May 31, 2010
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The article describes how President Jacob Zuma missed it when he justified his having sexual relations with daughters of his friends as being a ‘traditional African man’

This article may be used to:
– Discuss how to bring leaders to account
– Demonstrate a collision caused between traditional and modern ways of life
– Debate the extent the privacy of public figure’s lives

Trainer’s notes
This article criticises President Jacob Zuma’s assertion that he is a defender of African culture, this after admitting to having sexual relations with fathering a child with the daughter of one of his friends. The article does not seek to shame and humiliate the president, but is an attempt at making him accountable for his actions. President Zuma is criticised for lashing at the media for exposing the child in question to media glare (whilst the President has a every right to take the media to task about this, which the article easily misses) he is reminded that is his irresponsible actions that unfortunately lead to the situation. An interesting aspect of this story is that it is written by a man, who admits that he himself impregnated two women in his younger years. Something he now regrets.

The media should have protected the identity of the child. The media is thus reminded that the right of the child is of paramount importance. Moreover, the media keeps identifying the child’s grandfather; this does not add any value to the story. It is enough to state that the grandfather is one of Zuma’s friends. The continual reference to the grandfather, a public figure in his own right, makes one wonder if the grandfather was a less known figure whether the media would have harped on his identity.

The article does well in reminding the President about African traditions, which he purports. He is reminded of African traditions support and encourage having children within marriage, this to protect the children from the stigma associated with illegitimate children. Though in this case he has made amends to his wrongs by paying intlawulo to the woman’s family, one would have expected someone in his position, both a state president and custodian of African culture as he claims to have known better.

The article brings an interesting dimension into lives of public figures. Just how private are their lives? The president claims that this is a private matter and should be left as such. Journalists are often faced with such scenarios where the lines are blurred. It takes good journalist ethics to strike a balance between informing the public of topical news and respecting the rights of those in the story.

Discussion Questions
– What responsibilities do journalists have towards their subjects? Do these change when public figures are involved?
– If you had been one of the journalists covering this story which angle would you have taken?
– Are the private lives if public figures fair game for media?

Training exercises
– Identify and discuss scenarios where journalists find balancing between the need to tell a story and balancing the rights of those in the story challenging.
– This issue has gathered differing opinion .Gather vox pos on the matter.
– Have participants write a “job description,” advertising for a leadership position.

Other Training Resources
Gender, elections, and media
Gender and Governance
Business Unusual: Gender and the economy

From the Gender and Media Diversity Centre
Key issues: women in governance in Southern Africa
Click here and search theme “Politics” for more related research on the GMDC database.
Click here and search theme “SA Elections 2008″” for more related VRC case studies.


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