The Return of Bantu Education?

All of us have been shaken by the 24 schools that were burned to the ground in Vuwani, Limpopo, in the last week.

Whichever way you look at it, these acts of vandalism have set us back in our task of redressing the legacy of unequal education in our country.

In 1953, Hendrik Verwoerd introduced the reprehensible policy of Bantu Education. This policy limited the educational opportunities of black South Africans to ensure a steady supply of unskilled and semi-skilled labour.

Thirteen years later, in the Chamber of the National Assembly, Verwoerd was stabbed to death by one of the parliamentary service officers. The only thing tragic about that day was that Verwoerd’s policies didn’t die with him.

Indeed, Verwoerd’s ghost continues to haunt us.

Because, if you are a poor, black child, your chances of getting a decent education in a democratic South Africa are still very remote. And the uncomfortable truth, is that the gap in our education system is getting wider.

Just look at the facts.

In schools in the most affluent areas (‘quintile 5’ schools), the matric pass rate has remained steady at above 90% over the past three years.

But in schools in the poorest areas, (‘quintile one’ schools), the matric pass rate has dropped from 70.3% to 61.6% in the last three years.

In these schools, the physical science pass rate has dropped from 60.5% to 49.9%. The mathematics pass rate has dropped from 48.6% to 36.9%.

What is going wrong?

It is not a question of funding. The Basic Education Budget stands at R219 billion – almost one-fifth of the total national budget.

And, quite correctly, the state spends six times more on learners in poor areas than learners in more affluent areas.

So how is that, two decades into our democracy, poor black children are falling behind?

The answer lies in the quantity and quality of teaching.

The truth is that, for every excellent and dedicated teacher in a disadvantaged school, there are many more who can’t teach and many more who won’t teach.

And this problem will not go away until we break the SADTU protection racket that shields under-performing teachers from accountability.

In this regard, Minister Motshekga’s plan to licence and professionalise teaching is a step in the right direction.

SADTU will no doubt try and block this proposal. We hope that Minister Motshekga finds the courage that has so far eluded her when it comes to releasing the ‘Jobs for Cash’ report.

If it ever sees the light of day, the ‘Jobs for Cash’ report will show that SADTU has captured six out of nine provincial education departments. We trust that Minister Motshekga’s failure to release the report does not mean that she has been captured by SADTU as well.

Minister Motshekga has made much of her Department’s proposal for a ‘three-tier’ system made up of an academic stream, a technical stream and an occupational stream.

In principle, the introduction of technical and occupational streams for learners who do not have the aptitude for the traditional academic stream is to be welcomed.

We must be wary, however, of the target to offer 60% of all learners occupational subjects like hairdressing, beauty care, nail technology, upholstery and bricklaying by 2030.

We must be cautious because weak schools will be under pressure to push failing learners into the occupational stream – even if these learners could have coped in an academic stream had they received better schooling.

Take Kwabhamu Junior Secondary in Zululand, for example, one of the twenty-two schools that obtained a zero percent pass rate in the matric exams last year. The thirty-seven matric learners at this school didn’t fail because they were in the wrong stream. They failed because the school system failed them.

The policy of Bantu Education was reprehensible because it limited the educational opportunities of poor, black learners. We must make sure that the ‘three-stream’ approach does not do the same.

On that note, there is another potentially retrograde step in the offing. And that is the dilution of School Governing Body powers as contemplated in the Draft Basic Education Laws Amendment Bill.

School Governing Bodies give communities a voice in how schools are run. They are the difference between a public school system in a democracy, and a state school system in an authoritarian regime such as Apartheid.

We cannot redress the legacy of the past by mimicking the past. We must guard against the return of Bantu Education. And we must never go back to the state school system of the Apartheid era.

The only way to exorcise Verwoerd’s ghost is by improving the quality and quantity of teaching in disadvantaged schools. This means breaking SADTU’s stranglehold on our public education system, so that every child is given a chance to succeed.

Davis is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education. This is an edited version of a speech delivered in the debate on the budget of the Basic Education Department.

Silent majority: A crisis is brewing in basic education

In the background of the student protests stand the silent majority – young, mainly black, South Africans deprived of a decent basic education in a democratic South Africa. Many don’t finish school, let alone university. If the student movement is a fuse, this silent majority may well be the powder keg.

Many people warned the government about an impending student fees crisis, including a ministerial committee chaired by Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. Yet the government was caught flatfooted by the conflagration that engulfed universities, Parliament and the very seat of its power at the Union Buildings over the last fortnight.

The government’s knowledge of the coming crisis, and lack of will to do anything about it, tells us a great deal about the state of our democracy. It shows what happens when a governing party is unresponsive to the needs of its citizens, secure in the belief that it will be returned to power no matter how badly it governs.

It is utterly confounding to see leaders of the student protest movement draped in African National Congress colours as they march on the party’s headquarters at Luthuli House. They seem oblivious to the idea that blind electoral loyalty to the governing party, regardless of its performance in government, is the very reason it has failed them.

If people want a responsive government, they need to use the power of their vote to put it under pressure. Otherwise, the only way to get the government to act will be through riots, shutdowns and protest. This is not what the struggle for democracy was about.

In a functioning democracy, it is incumbent on the government to gauge and process all pressing societal demands, not just the demands of those who shout loudest. Few interest groups are as organised and as vocal as the students have been. As a result, it can take years for some crises to manifest themselves as conspicuously as the university-funding crisis has in the last few weeks. By then, it is often too late.

Indeed, as unfashionable as it may sound, there is a crisis brewing that is far graver than affordable university fees. And that is the failure of our school system to give every child access to a quality basic education.

Far from engaging in mass protest, South Africa has been lulled into a sense of complacency when it comes to the quality of schooling. Every year, the Matric pass rate is celebrated and easy victories are claimed. Statistics indicating near-universal access to basic education are held up as proof of a good story to tell. The comparatively well-run Department of Basic Education and level-headedness of Minister Angie Motshekga go some way towards reassuring the nation that everything is on track.

But we know, deep down, that something is very, very wrong with our school system.

Those who finish school with marks good enough to get into university can count themselves among the fortunate few. Of the total number of pupils who entered Grade 1 in 2003, only 36% passed the National Senior Certificate in 2014, and just 14% qualified for admission to a university degree.

Meanwhile, the 86% who didn’t make it to university are struggling to find work. According to the latest South Africa Survey, the unemployment rate among those whose highest level of education is Matric stands at 33.2%. By contrast, the unemployment rate for those with a degree is much less at 7.6%.

On top of this, despite a steady increase of black students into universities over the last two decades, deep racial inequalities persist. Only 12% of black South Africans and 14.3% of coloureds enter higher education, compared to 58.5% of whites and 51% of Indians. Education analyst Nic Spaull notes that less than 1 in 200 black children who enter Grade 1 go on to pass Matric with marks high enough to study mathematics or science at university.

The uncomfortable reality is that, if you are a black child born into a poor household, the odds of getting into university and building a rewarding career are stacked very firmly against you. The Statistics South Africa report on youth unemployment released last year found that, in comparison to other races, the proportion of black youth in skilled employment actually regressed between 1994 and 2014. Launching the report, the statistician-general said black youths between the ages of 25 and 34 “lost out in acquiring skills through the 20-year period and that is the crux of the issue of youth unemployment”.

If the student movement is a fuse, the powder keg may well be the silent majority of young, black South Africans who leave school with little prospects of finding a decent job. The question is how long it will take for the simmering discontent to explode and, when it does, whether it will lead to a peaceful, democratic alternation of power or not.

A responsive government in a functioning democracy would act to defuse the crisis in basic education, before it is too late. Nobody should tolerate an education system that hands down the inequities of apartheid from one generation to the next. Our government does so at its peril.

Davis is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Basic Education. This article was first published in The Daily Maverick.

SABC lost Hope because of too much Faith

Member’s Statement delivered in the National Assembly:

Deputy Speaker,

On behalf of the Democratic Alliance, I would like to welcome Minister Faith Muthambi back from her study trip to China.

I am sure the House is interested to know what the Minister learned about media in a country ranked 177 out of 180 on the World Press Freedom Index; a country where 44 journalists are currently languishing in jail.

Perhaps Minister Muthambi went to learn more about the Chinese state broadcaster and how it is directly controlled by the Chinese Minister of Propaganda.

Because that it is exactly what Minister Muthambi is trying to replicate here in South Africa.

This much is clear from the letters written by former SABC Board Member Hope Zinde that were released last week.

Hope Zinde’s letters paint a picture of a Minister putting immense political pressure on independent Board Members.

For example, when Hope Zinde questioned the appointment of Hlaudi Motsoeneng, Minister Muthambi said that Hlaudi must be supported because it is what President Zuma wants.

As the Minister apparently said, and I quote: “But baba loves Hlaudi, he loves him so much, we must support him.”

When Hope Zinde didn’t support Hlaudi, Minister Muthambi had her fired.

You could say that the SABC lost Hope because there was too much Faith.

We call on all members of this House to reject Minister Muthambi’s moves to turn our public broadcaster into a state broadcaster.

Thank you.

Propaganda ‘machine’ should be quietly scrapped

By Gavin Davis

Last year, during the Ellen Tshabalala scandal, the Communications Portfolio Committee showed that this Parliament could hold people to account despite their links to powerful politicians. We can all be proud of this achievement.

Our task now, is to hold the Minister to account for her performance over the last year. And, if we are honest, we will all agree that her performance has been a massive disappointment.

I am sure that nobody is more disappointed in the Minister’s performance than the President. He wanted a new propaganda ministry to clean up his government’s image, but all he got was more controversy.

Just look at what’s happened in the year since this ministry was created:

We’ve had an SABC Board Chairperson resign because she was caught lying about her qualifications. But this was only after 6 damaging months of postponed hearings, court cases and other delaying tactics.

We’ve had an SABC Chief Operations Officer who has been shielded and promoted when the Public Protector said he should have been fired.

We have a Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) that is abused to promote the majority party, including the channeling of public money into the coffers of a government-friendly newspaper owned by the President’s friends.

And then, in a few weeks on 17 June, we face humiliation on a global scale. Because, on that day, we will miss the International Telecommunications Union deadline to switch over from analogue to digital television. If Minister Muthambi had not spent the last year meddling with the Digital Migration Policy, and waging an obsessive turf war to control the process, it is unlikely that we would be in the embarrassing position we now find ourselves in.

Most serious of all, is that the Minister willfully misunderstands her role in relation to the SABC. She believes that the SABC is a state-owned company instead of an independent public broadcaster. She wants to take us back to the apartheid era when the SABC was a tool in the hands of politicians, instead of a resource belonging to the people of this country.

This is why the Minister thinks there is nothing wrong with unilaterally seizing the powers of the SABC Board, even though this is in clear contravention of the Broadcasting Act.

And it is why the Minister thinks it is okay to send independent SABC Board Members threatening letters, even when she has no power in law to appoint or remove them.

In her Budget Speech last year, Minister Muthambi said that stabilising the SABC was at the very top of her agenda.

However, since then, no less than three SABC Board Members have resigned, while three others have been forcibly and illegally removed. As a result, the SABC Board does not have a Chairperson, or a quorum to legally constitute meetings.

Last year, the Minister also promised that a new Chief Executive Officer would be in place by the end of September. Nine months have passed and the post is still vacant.

No wonder the SABC is in crisis, the scale of which is only starting to become clear.

Financial documents recently brought to light by the Sunday Times newspaper show that the SABC faces a projected loss of R501-million for the financial year just ended on March 31. This loss is projected to double to R1 billion in the next financial year.

So the SABC is not on “a sound financial footing”, as Minister Muthambi said in Parliament a few weeks ago. On the contrary, the SABC is facing financial ruin.

We need to fix our public broadcaster as a matter of priority. But the only way to do that is to ensure that there is less political interference in the SABC, not more.

This is why it is crucial that the Speaker’s Office releases the legal opinion on the removal of Board Members Hope Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi. Once we have this legal opinion, the Portfolio Committee can deal with this matter as we are mandated to do in terms of the Broadcasting Act.

It is imperative that the Portfolio Committee works together to find the most qualified and independently minded candidates to take up positions on the Board. And then they need to be left alone to do their jobs in the interests of the public we serve.

These steps will go some way to get the SABC back on track, but they won’t fix all that is wrong in the Communications Department. Because, the truth is, this Department should never have been created in the first place.

We live in the age of convergence – where traditional broadcasting is rapidly merging with new digital telecommunication technology. This is why it never made sense to create separate Communications and Telecommunications Departments.

As a result of the split, we have unnecessary duplication, inherent contradictions and overall lack of policy coherence. Let me give one important example of this.

On the 14 November 2014, the Telecommunications Minister gazetted the National Integrated ICT Policy Discussion Paper for public comment. An entire chapter of it is devoted to broadcasting, including regulation, language diversity, the funding and mandate of the SABC, and media diversity and development.

Yet two days before, no doubt in anticipation of the release of the ICT Discussion Paper, Minister Muthambi announced that she would be doing her own Broadcasting Policy Review — on precisely the same topics covered in the ICT Discussion Paper. What a waste of time, energy and resources.

In his drive to create a propaganda machine, the President has created a mess. And the great irony is that he never got the propaganda machine he wanted. Because no ministry this dysfunctional could ever be referred to as a ‘machine’.

So I would like to offer the President a reprieve. If he quietly scraps the new Communications ministry and goes back to the old converged Department, we will never mention this failed experiment again.

Gavin Davis MP is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications. This is an edited version of a speech delivered in the Communications Budget Vote Debate.

‘Family Values’: Anatomy of a Straw Man

By Gavin Davis

What sets the Democratic Alliance apart from other parties is the culture of open debate that characterises its internal elections. Rigorous debate is important because it gives Congress delegates an opportunity to get to know the candidates better, increasing the likelihood of the best candidate getting elected.

However, such robust internal campaigning only works if all candidates play by the rules of the game. Candidates cannot, for example, campaign negatively or bring the party into disrepute. And, when the elections are over, all candidates agree to accept the outcome and work with the newly elected leadership team in pursuance of the party’s objectives.

It was therefore strange to read Wilmot James’ critique of the DA’s Values Charter in the Sunday Times, precisely one week after it was adopted at Federal Congress.[i] James repeated this criticism in Business Day yesterday, saying that he intends to “continue the fight he started at the Congress, which is to ensure that the rights of individuals be placed at the centre of the DA’s Values Charter.”[ii]

That fact of the matter is that James had ample opportunity to make this case in the run-up to Congress. As the DA’s former Federal Chairperson, James was involved in the formulation of the Values Charter from its inception, which involved months of consultation across the party. James also made his views known the day before the Charter was to be adopted, at a meeting of the DA’s Federal Council. After finding little support for his position there, he tried again from the Congress floor the following day. Again, he was unable to bring party members around to his point of view.

Having failed to convince the party that the Values Charter is a shift towards social conservatism, it appears that James is now on a mission to persuade the public. To what end, only James will know. But, whatever his intentions, the argument he puts forward cannot go unchallenged.

The public deserves to know that, by willfully misrepresenting the Values Charter, James is building a straw man for his knockdown arguments. Straw men appear convincing on the surface but, when you dig a little deeper, it doesn’t take long to expose them for what they are.

The DA’s Values Charter unambiguously states that the South African people must have “the maximum amount of individual freedom consistent with law and order.”[iii] Where family is mentioned in the document, it is only within the context of promoting individualism – the fundamental tenet of liberal thought. As the Charter states: “Families, however uniquely structured, help build successful individuals and provide them a foundation with which to make sense of the world and to realise their full potential as individuals.”[iv]

The suggestion that stable families are more likely to yield strong individuals is hardly a controversial idea or, for that matter, an illiberal one. Perhaps that is why one of South Africa’s most respected liberal think tanks, the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR), has produced a considerable body of research on the topic.

In a 2011 report entitled ‘First Steps to Healing the South African Family’, SAIRR researchers Gail Eddy and Lucy Holborn show the extent to which family breakdown has occurred as a result of poverty, the HIV/Aids pandemic and the legacy of the apartheid migrant labour system.[v] Eddy and Holborn show how family breakdown is an impediment to young people’s prospects of scholastic success and securing employment, and how children from unstable family units are more likely to engage in risky sexual behaviour and perpetrate violent crime. Their conclusion is as follows: “Both local and international research provides evidence that growing up in stable families with both parents present can make a significant difference to the future outcomes of young people.”[vi]

In the United States, it has long been recognised that a focus on family should not be the sole preserve of politicians, policy-makers and academics from a particular side of the ideological spectrum. As an article in the progressive Boston Globe pointed out last month: “A wave of research from think tanks on the right and left, as well as scholars in social sciences like economics and sociology, has made a forceful new defense of the venerable institution.”[vii]

One example is the ‘Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study’ initiated by Princeton Sociologist Sara McLanahan that has produced a wealth of data on the impact of family breakdown on children.[viii] This emerging literature on the family shouldn’t be a no-go area for liberals. On the contrary, we should acknowledge the role that a stable family can play in producing strong individuals capable of thinking for themselves and seizing the opportunities that come their way.

The great liberal thinker John Rawls recognised this in his essay Justice as Fairness. He wrote: “The family is part of the basic structure, the reason being that one of its essential roles is to establish the orderly production and reproduction of society and of its culture from one generation to the next.”[ix] Like all liberals, Rawls was not prescriptive about the form that a family must take: “No particular form of the family (monogamous, heterosexual, or otherwise) is so far required by a political conception of justice so long as it is arranged to fulfill these tasks effectively and does not run afoul of other political values.”[x]

In keeping with Rawls’ liberal conception of the family, the DA’s Values Charter specifically refers to families “however uniquely structured” and “in all their different manifestations.” Nowhere in the Charter does it say that strong individuals cannot emerge from broken families, or that the family should replace the primacy of the individual in our party’s political philosophy. To claim otherwise is a deliberate distortion of both the Values Charter and contemporary literature on the subject.

It is important for the DA to engage in robust internal debate on contentious matters. But we must do so in a way that strengthens the party, not weakens it. So when we debate issues, let’s do so honestly and with the best intentions. And when we lose debates – or internal elections for that matter – let us accept the outcome with good grace.

Davis is a DA Member of Parliament

[i] ‘Family values often antithesis of liberalism’, Sunday Times, 17 May 2015.

[ii] Natasha Marrian, ‘Maimane launches new take on DA weekly newsletter’, BD Live, 18 May 2015.

[iii] Democratic Alliance Values Charter.

[iv] Democratic Alliance Values Charter.

[v] Gail Eddy and Lucy Holborn, ‘First Steps to Healing the South African Family’, SAIRR Research Paper, March 2011 p.6.

[vi] Gail Eddy and Lucy Holborn, ‘First Steps to Healing the South African Family’, SAIRR Research Paper, March 2011 p.15.

[vii] Ruth Graham, ‘They do: The scholarly about-face on marriage’, The Boston Globe, 26 April 2015.

[viii] See ‘Fragile Families and Child Wellbeing Study’ website:

[ix] John Rawls, ‘Justice as Fairness: A Restatement’, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2001 p.162

[x] John Rawls, ‘Justice as Fairness: A Restatement’, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2001 p.163

This is a propaganda pamphlet, not a newspaper

Note: The New Age last week refused to publish this opinion piece, despite originally offering to publish an 800-word rebuttal of an article the DA complained to the Ombudsman about in February. This is the second time that The New Age reneged on a commitment to deal with the complaint. Full correspondence with The New Age follows after the opinion piece.

By Gavin Davis

If you are reading this in a copy of The New Age, you are probably an official in a government department. Because we all know that government subscriptions make up the bulk of copies of The New Age distributed. Few people actually buy The New Age.

This is why The New Age refuses to become a member of the Audit Bureau of Circulations of South Africa (ABC), an independent organisation established to provide accurate and comparable circulation figures. The owners of The New Age don’t want people to know just how dismally it performs in the marketplace.

On 2 March, The New Age opted out of another body that mainstream newspapers subscribe to – the Press Ombudsman system. The Office of the Press Ombudsman is an independent entity mandated by The Press Council to ensure fair and accurate reporting in accordance with The Press Code.

The New Age’s withdrawal from the Press Ombudsman followed a DA complaint to the Ombudsman regarding a front-page article published on 2 February. The article, entitled ‘DA sees conspiracies where there are none’, was designed to discredit the DA’s claims that government advertising expenditure is skewed in favour of The New Age.

The article breached at least four sections of The Press Code because it:

  • Failed to reflect a multiplicity of voices;
  • The reporter did not attempt to solicit the views of the subject of critical reportage;
  • The headline presented the opinion of Minister Faith Muthambi as fact; and
  • The reporting was slanted as a result of political and commercial considerations.

There is no doubt that the timing of The New Age’s withdrawal from the Ombudsman system was related to the DA’s complaint. As the Press Ombudsman, Joe Thloloe, said: “Now, when we got the complaint about The New Age from the DA, The New Age was quite reluctant to respond to the complaint and when we contacted them, they sent a note stating they are pulling out of the system.”

In other words, rather than face the prospect of publishing a retraction and an apology, The New Age opted to pull out of the Press Ombudsman system altogether. In a statement on the matter, the CEO of The New Age, Mr Nazeem Howa promised to deal with the DA’s complaint “through an independent third party.”

When I forwarded the complaint to The New Age, the newspaper offered me an 800-word opinion piece to respond to the article in question. This is hardly a satisfactory resolution because it means that The New Age can avoid the embarrassment of apologising and retracting the story.

The alternative, however, was to wait three or four months for The New Age to appoint its own ombudsman to deal with the complaint. Even then, there is no way that an ombudsman appointed by The New Age, and on the payroll of the New Age, can be either independent or a third party. Under these conditions, the chances of a fair adjudication are nil.

So, let me take this opportunity to set the record straight.

The New Age is owned by a family with close links to President Zuma, and its editorial policy is to publish stories that present the Zuma administration in a positive light. SABC Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng described The New Age’s editorial policy at a New Age Breakfast Briefing on 13 February:

“We as the public broadcaster, we are different to New Age but, at least, while we have this relationship with New Age, they share the same views with us: 70% good story to tell. And we must do that.”

Motsoeneng went on to berate Cabinet Ministers who still advertise in independent media outlets: “I don’t understand why you are spending money on people who are not even appreciating what government is doing,” he said.

These sentiments are not new. It was back in 2011 when then government spokesperson, Jimmy Manyi, declared that government-friendly media outlets would be rewarded with a greater share of government advertising expenditure.

This explains why the Department of Communications spent R 10.2 million or 11.2% of its advertising budget in The New Age in the last financial year, despite its small readership of 153,000 people. By comparison, significantly less (R 7.8 million) was spent on the Daily Sun, for example, which has a readership of 5.3 million people.

The New Age supports the government, so the government supports The New Age. But this is not government’s money to do what it likes with. Your hard-earned tax money – money that should be spent on healthcare, housing and schools – is being used to keep this propaganda pamphlet afloat. In the end, the only consolation is that relatively few people read it.

Gavin Davis MP is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications

Correspondence with The New Age:

On Wed, Mar 4, 2015 at 4:20 PM, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Dear Mr Davis

Your email today to the Editor of The New Age refers. See the statement issued to Sapa today by the paper’s CEO, Nazeem Howa.

Among other things, he stated that the paper was in the process of appointing its own but independent ombudsman to deal with the complaints of readers against the paper.

However, to deal expeditiously with your complaint, Mr Williams asked me, as the paper’s opinion editor, to offer you space for a 800-word article in which you can rebut the article you had complained to the Press Ombudsman about. If you are agreeable, the article will be published on our oped or Leader page.

I await your response.


Kevin Humphrey

Opinion editor, The New Age

On Wednesday, March 4, 2015, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

Thanks for this. Please send me Mr Howa’s press statement.

Kind regards


On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Hi Gavin – below Mr Howa’s statement:

“We confirm notifying the Press Ombudsman of our decision to withdraw The New Age from the jurisdiction of the Press Council.

This decision was not taken lightly but followed much internal debate.  Our reasons are a matter for discussion between the Ombud and ourselves.

We are in the process of appointing an independent ombudsman to deal with complaints against the paper.

We have asked the Press Ombudsman to forward to the paper all existing complaints and will ensure that they are dealt with through an independent third party. We will naturally stand by that ruling and invite the DA to forward its complaint to us.”

On Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 8:58 AM, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

Thanks for this.

I see that Mr Howa has committed to deal with the complaint through an independent third party.

Please let me know:

  1. Whether this independent third party will still investigate the complaint if I accept your offer of an opinion piece.
  1. Who this independent third party is.

Kind regards


On Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 12:02 PM, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Dear Gavin

We have notified the Ombud only this week of our decision to withdraw from the Press Council. We are now embarking on a process to identify a “Public Editor” who can deal with future complaints against the paper. It may take some time.

As regards the offer of the oped space that still stands.



On Thursday, March 5, 2015, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

The New Age has publicly committed to deal with my complaint, and I will hold the newspaper to that commitment.

One way of dealing with this is for the New Age to publish an apology on its front page in the same position as the article in question, and of the same proportions. This is the remedy that I requested of the Ombudsman in my complaint.

If you are not prepared to do that, please answer these questions (which I repeat here) so that I can make an informed decision about the next step to take:

  1. Whether this independent third party will still investigate the complaint if I accept your offer of an opinion piece.
  1. Who this independent third party is likely to be.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards


On Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 12:09 PM, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Dear Gavin

As regards your two questions.

  1. Whether this independent third party will still investigate the complaint if I accept your offer of an opinion piece.

The answer to this is that we would like to bring this matter to a conclusion as soon as possible in a way that suits both parties and not let it linger on. It will take some time to find the ombud/public editor. Its the reason we are suggesting you use the oped piece to make you concerns public and then leave it at that.

  1. Who this independent third party is likely to be.

The answer to this is that we are in the process of finding this person, which is expected to take several months – so – as yet we do not know who it will be.



On Tue, Mar 10, 2015 at 3:28 PM, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

In his statement that you sent (below), Mr Howa made a public commitment to deal with my complaint through an “independent third party”.

Why are you reneging on that commitment?

Kind regards


On Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 9:49 AM, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Dear Gavin

Hope you are well and having a great day.

We are very happy to stick to our commitment of the complaint being dealt with by our new ombud when he or she is appointed. As soon as this is confirmed then this matter would be the first thing that they would address.

We would inform you as soon as the person is in place and can start work.



———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Gavin Davis <>
Date: Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 10:10 AM
Subject: Re: The New Age and your complaint to the Press Ombudsman
To: Kevin Humphrey <>
Dear Kevin

Thanks for this.

In his statement, Mr Howa promised that my complaint would be investigated by an independent third party.

An ombud appointed by the The New Age, and on the payroll of the New Age, is neither independent nor a third party.

In other words, even if we wait for the new ombud to be appointed so that he or she can investigate, this will not constitute an investigation by an “independent third party.”

So please can you explain precisely how Mr Howa will keep his public commitment to have my complaint investigated by an independent third party.

Kind regards


On Wed, Mar 11, 2015 at 5:37 PM, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

Given that there is no way that my complaint can be fairly adjudicated by an ombudsman appointed by, and on the payroll of, The New Age, I will take up your offer to publish an opinion piece.

I will send you an 800-word article tomorrow to be published on your opinion page.

Kind regards


On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 12:11 PM, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

Please find attached my opinion piece, as requested.

Please let me know when it will be published.

Kind regards


On Thursday, March 12, 2015, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Thanks Gavin tomorrow’s pages are already done so the first available slot will be Monday (16th March) I hope that ok with you.


On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 12:58 PM, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

That’s fine, thanks. Gavin

On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 6:58 PM, Kevin Humphrey <> wrote:

Dear Mr Davis

The editor has had sight of your opinion piece and is not prepared to publish it in its present form.

He says our offer to you was a rebuttal of the article of February 2nd about which you complained to the Press Ombudsman.

In its present form, your piece is defamatory of The New Age with particular reference to the first two paragraphs. His request is that you confine yourself to the points your raised in your complaint to the Press Ombudsman. To refresh your memory they are:

The article breached at least four sections of The Press Code because it:

  • Failed to reflect a multiplicity of voices;
  • The reporter did not attempt to solicit the views of the subject of critical reportage;
  • The headline presented the opinion of Minister Faith Muthambi as fact; and
  • The reporting was slanted as a result of political and commercial considerations.

We would still like to publish your rebuttal article on Monday if you could let me have it by Sunday morning.



On Thu, Mar 12, 2015 at 9:59 PM, Gavin Davis <> wrote:

Dear Kevin

  1. The opinion piece submitted earlier today is a rebuttal of the article of 2 February that claimed government advertising expenditure on The New Age was above board. My opinion piece rebuts this by showing how government rewards The New Age for its pro-government editorial policy, which is an abuse of public money.
  1. I have never heard of a newspaper offering a right of reply and then dictating what should be in that right of reply. Surely the entire point of the exercise is to give me the right to exercise my opinion?
  1. The New Age is refusing to publish my opinion piece on the grounds that it is “defamatory”. Yet The New Age had no such qualms when it impugned my character in the 2 February article.
  1. There is nothing defamatory about the claims made in the first two paragraphs of the opinion piece submitted.

In the first paragraph I claim that the bulk of The New Age’s distribution is to government entities. There are a number of sources that provide evidence of The New Age’s reliance on government subscriptions to boost circulation. However, if you provide me with an audited breakdown of your circulation figures indicating that government subscriptions are not the bulk of The New Age’s distribution, I will gladly remove that paragraph.

In the second paragraph, I claim that The New Age does not have its circulation figures audited by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. I can point to numerous articles and sources (including the ABC itself) that make the same claim. However, if you provide evidence that The New Age does have its circulation figures audited, I will gladly remove that paragraph.

  1. This will be the second time The New Age has reneged on a commitment.

The New Age’s first commitment was to have my complaint investigated by an “independent third party”. You could not uphold this commitment because an ombudsman appointed by you and on your payroll cannot be an independent third party.

The second commitment was to publish an opinion piece of 800-words rebutting the article of 2 February. Now that you have received the opinion piece, and don’t like its contents, you are reneging on that commitment as well. This points to a fundamental lack of integrity on the part of The New Age.

*     *     *

My suggestion is for The New Age to publish my opinion piece in its present form. You can always give yourself space to rebut my claims, just as you promised to give me space to rebut yours. Failing that, you can do what every serious newspaper in the country does: allow an independent Press Ombudsman to investigate and adjudicate the complaint.

Kind regards


Muthambi’s hostile takeover of the SABC

In recent months we have seen an intensification of the Zuma faction’s campaign to capture key state institutions to protect the President from prosecution. The attempted purge of the Head of the Hawks, the National Director of Public Prosecutions and senior South African Revenue Service officials have sent a chill through our body politic.

While these stories were dominating the headlines, another attempt at state capture was insidiously underway. On 26 September last year, Zuma-loyalist and Communications Minister Faith Muthambi quietly signed a document giving her overarching control of the SABC. This Memorandum of Incorporation turns the SABC from a public broadcaster into a state broadcaster, completing the Zumafication of the SABC.

The Memorandum allows Muthambi to usurp the Board’s power in numerous ways, including giving her the right to veto any rule change proposed by the Board relating to the governance of the SABC. This is in clear contravention of the Broadcasting Act, which states that the Board “controls the affairs of the Corporation.”

The Memorandum also gives the Minister new powers to recommend the removal of Board Members. Again, this is in breach of the Broadcasting Act, which empowers only Parliament or the Board itself to recommend the removal of SABC Board Members.

Perhaps even more alarming is how the SABC Board’s authority over its Executive Directors (Chief Executive Officer, Chief Operations Officer and Chief Financial Officer) has been curtailed. The upshot is that Zuma’s henchman, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, is now untouchable at the SABC despite the numerous scandals that should have ended his career some time ago.

In terms of the Memorandum, Muthambi now has the power to make Motsoeneng the Acting CEO and keep him there for as long as she wishes. If Muthambi wants Motsoeneng to be appointed as the permanent CEO, she can waive the requirement that the position needs to be advertised and other candidates shortlisted. Then, if Muthambi wants to re-appoint Motsoeneng when his contract comes to an end, she can do so unilaterally.

If the Board decides it wants to discipline and/or suspend Motsoeneng, as the Public Protector directed it to do last year, Muthambi can now block the Board from doing so. And, to give Motsoeneng the best chance of surviving the DA’s court case challenging the legality of his appointment, the Memorandum makes the SABC liable to pay his legal fees.

All these amendments to the SABC’s Memorandum of Incorporation were made without discussion with the Board, and against the wishes of many Board Members. Meanwhile, Minister Muthambi has already begun using her newfound powers to bully Board Members who do not toe the line. In December last year she wrote to certain Board Members asking them to give her reasons not to have them removed from office. Board Members perceived as too independent are reportedly being targeted and victimised.

This Memorandum of Incorporation is only the first part of Muthambi’s plan to neuter the SABC Board. Shortly after assuming office last year, Muthambi raised eyebrows when she announced that she wishes to reduce the number of SABC Board Members and to change the way the Board is appointed. This year she will table legislation that will “clarify” her powers as Communications Minister, reduce the size of the board from 15 to 7 and revise what she calls the “current cumbersome process” of appointing the Board. Ominous indeed.

It is not an exaggeration to say that this ‘hostile takeover’ poses the gravest threat to SABC independence since 1994. But it must not be viewed in isolation. Make no mistake; the attempted seizure of independent state institutions is a concerted effort to protect one man. Our constitutional democracy has never looked so fragile.

Davis is the DA’s Shadow Minister of Communications. A version of this article was first published in the Daily Maverick.