In Search of Enemies : Letter from the President
The October 4, 2001 edition of the British 'Guardian' newspaper published an article written by Phillip Knightley entitled 'The disinformation campaign'. It began with the words: "The way wars are reported in the western media follows a depressingly predictable pattern". The writer then proceeds to discuss the regular use and the various stages of disinformation campaigns during preparations for wars intended to defeat and destroy an enemy. He wrote:
"The third stage in the pattern (of disinformation*) is the demonisation* not only of the (enemy) leader but of his people. The simplest way of doing this is the atrocity story***. The problem is that although many stories are true -after all, war itself is an atrocity - many are not.
"Take the Kuwaiti babies story. Its origins go back to the First World War when British propaganda accused the Germans of tossing Belgian babies into the air and catching them on their bayonets. Dusted off and updated for the Gulf War, this version had Iraqi soldiers bursting into a modern Kuwaiti hospital, finding the premature babies ward and then tossing the babies out of incubators so that the incubators could be sent back to Iraq.
"The story, improbable from the start, was first reported by the Daily Telegraph in London on September 5 1990. But the story lacked the human element; it was an unverified report, there were no pictures for television and no interviews with mothers grieving over dead babies.
"That was soon rectified. An organisation calling itself Citizens for a Free Kuwait (financed by the Kuwaiti government in exile) had signed a $10m contract with the giant American public relations company, Hill & Knowlton, to campaign for American military intervention to oust Iraq from Kuwait.
"The Human Rights Caucus of the US Congress was meeting in October and Hill & Knowlton arranged for a 15-year-old Kuwaiti girl to tell the babies' story before the congressmen. She did it brilliantly, choking with tears at the right moment, her voice breaking as she struggled to continue. The congressional committee knew her only as "Nayirah" and the television segment of her testimony showed anger and resolution on the faces of the congressmen listening to her. President Bush referred to the story six times in the next five weeks as an example of the evil of Saddam's regime.
"In the Senate debate whether to approve military action to force Saddam out of Kuwait, seven senators specifically mentioned the incubator babies atrocity and the final margin in favour of war was just five votes. John R Macarthur's study of propaganda in the war says that the baby's atrocity was a definitive moment in the campaign to prepare the American public for the need to go to war.
"It was not until two years later that the truth emerged. The story was a fabrication and a myth, and Nayirah, the teenage Kuwaiti girl, coached and rehearsed by Hill & Knowlton for her appearance before the Congressional Committee, was in fact the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States. By the time Macarthur revealed this, the war was won and over and it did not matter any more."
This story, which we have quoted at some length, shows the extent to which people are prepared to go to win their battles and wars, being prepared to resort to the lies that Phillip Knightley more gently describes as "a fabrication and a myth".
There are some in our country and elsewhere in the world who think they have a task to win their own battles and wars against the ANC. They too have their own "Nayirah's" ready to tell fabricated stories that would contribute to the weakening and the final defeat of our movement.
A seemingly important "stage" in their disinformation campaign against us is the apparently permanent search for enemies of our movement, the title of this Letter, which we have borrowed from John Stockwell, who described the activities of the CIA in Angola in his book "In Search of Enemies".
Many of those who are convinced that the ANC must be weakened and defeated are convinced that individually and collectively the opposition parties do not have the strength and capacity to achieve this goal. They are therefore permanently on the look out for the enemies of our movement that would have the possibility to accomplish this objective, whom they would obviously encourage and support.
A favourite hunting ground for these enemies is within the ANC itself, the Alliance and the broad democratic movement. The popular thesis is that the strongest and best opposition to the ANC will come from within the organisation, as well as the broad democratic movement.
The desperation behind the search for the enemies of the ANC means that they must be found, and where they do not exist, a Nayirah must be rehearsed to tell a graphic story that the enemies of the ANC exist and are alive and well.
The cover page of the 'Financial Mail' of June 4 2004, announces a story in its inside pages in these words: 'Ngcuka and ANC fault lines'. In the body of the story, which appears under the headline 'Heat Builds on Ngcuka', Mr Peter Honey writes:
"On a superficial level, Mushwana's criticism of Ngcuka and former justice minister Penuell Maduna and their scathing responses revolve around a constitutional issue: the extent to which the country's top prosecutor can wield his powers against the rights of an accused to trial without prejudice.
"On a deeper level the dispute is the latest eruption in a seething power struggle within the ANC harking back to the anti-apartheid days. It is a complex and shifting amalgam of contrary alliances and patronage. Its fault line runs roughly between elements that might be described as new-age progressives on one hand and atavistic opportunists on the other.
"The war's most vivid expression was the spy claims against Ngcuka by Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik, struggle-era ANC intelligence operatives and long-time allies of Zuma, former commander of the movement's intelligence arm."
Having made these statements about "a seething power struggle", "a complex and shifting amalgam of contrary alliances and patronage", "long-time allies", "internal (ANC) party rumblings", "the political forces ranged against Ngcuka", and others elsewhere in the article, such as that "political pressures are mounting on the country's top prosecutor as his Scorpions investigators uncover more cases of alleged corruption involving influential figures in the ANC and security establishment", one would expect that Mr Honey would provide some facts to substantiate these dramatic disclosures.
Undoubtedly, a story about a seething power struggle, complex and shifting alliances, the fight to the finish between the progressives and the opportunists, the link between pre-liberation intelligence work and post-liberation power struggles, the wars among various state institutions and personalities within the state system, would make fascinating reading.
Unfortunately, Mr Honey does not tell this story, whose publication would almost certainly make him rich and famous. Instead, he pretends that the story has already been told and all that he is doing is to repeat established facts. However there are no such established facts and there will not be.
Mr Honey's discovery of "a superficial level" and "a deeper level" exemplifies precisely the kind of disinformation campaign of "fabrications and myths" of which Phillip Knightley wrote. It is an established fact that the National Prosecuting Authority investigated various allegations concerning Deputy President Jacob Zuma. Mr Honey and others who think like him must tell us why this process represents "a seething power struggle within the ANC harking back to anti-apartheid days", and how it manifested itself as such a "power struggle".
It is true that Mac Maharaj and Mo Shaik accused Bulelani Ngcuka of having been an apartheid spy. When this allegation was first made during "the anti-apartheid days", it had absolutely nothing to do with any factions, but had everything to do with what proved to be faulty intelligence. Mr Honey and others like him will have to explain since when this allegation suddenly became a "vivid expression" of some "fault line" in the ANC.
The Public Protector processed a complaint submitted to him by the Deputy President. The complaint was lodged without reference to the ANC in part or in whole, and was processed without any reference to the ANC, in part or in whole. Ngcuka and Maduna responded to the Public Protector's report without any reference to the ANC, in part or in whole. Mr Honey and others like him will have to explain why and how any of these activities represent "a seething power struggle within the ANC".
Mr Honey has made other discoveries that are also unknown to the whole of the ANC, including the people mentioned, such as that Maharaj and Shaik are "long-time allies of Zuma", that Maharaj was an "intelligence operative", and that Ramatlhodi is "President Thabo Mbeki's parliamentary go-between". Mr Honey will have to educate us about these matters as well.
Mr Honey's problem is that his story about "ANC fault lines", "internal party rumblings" etc etc., "lacks the human element, (is) an unverified report, (with) no pictures for television and no interviews with mothers grieving over dead (husbands)", to borrow Phillip Knightley's words.
Clearly, Mr Honey will have to rectify this with the production of his own Nayirah, because he will not be able to produce the facts to illustrate the story his tells with such great assurance. In other words, he will have to take his disinformation campaign to its logical conclusion by providing episodes, dates, and places, as well as actors and actresses who will contribute the "human element" to the fabrication and the myth of "a seething power struggle within the ANC". He has no choice but to improve the packaging of the lie.
As we have already said, the frantic search for enemies of the ANC had led to a number of discoveries by the search parties**. They have, for instance, discovered that the ANC will be weakened and defeated either by COSATU fighting alone or reinforced by the SACP. Others have found that "social movements", such as the tiny Landless People's Movement (LPM) and the Anti-Privatisation Forum (APF), might very well give the ANC a run for its money, and therefore occasionally give them the requisite media exposure.
Because the aim is not merely to make one spectacular discovery or another, those engaged in the search for enemies of the ANC will, of course, work to encourage and support such enemies of the ANC as they may find, even on the basis that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
It was on this basis that Alan Paton's Liberal Party supported the PAC, setting the stage for today's "liberals" to continue to search for enemies of the ANC, whom they will encourage and support, even if they are dressed in "left" clothes.
The law-enforcement agencies of our country must and will continue to do their work, respecting their constitutional and legal mandates. They have to discharge their responsibilities without fear or favour, and may, from time to time, have to deal with people who occupy one or another political position.
It would be absurd to impute political intentions to any and all such actions simply because they involved politicians. Such imputation would have to be proved and not merely alleged. Of course we are not calling on Mr Honey and do not expect him to prove anything, given that his objective is not that the truth should be told.
His aim is that fabrications and myths should help him to win his battles and his wars targeted at defeating the ANC. However, as he knows, others have walked along the road he has chosen, without success.
With acknowledgements to ANC Today.