BOUWER van Niekerk, a Johannesburg-based attorney penned an opinion on a statement this month, written by a group of concerned advocates who “were outraged by what they viewed as racist attitudes toward black legal practitioners.” In the process he unwittingly raises a point in law, regarding the status of persons who like Basson, may not have gained amnesty for crimes under apartheid.
Niekerk states without any sense of irony: “If I utter racist views, I should be held accountable and prosecuted accordingly. But the mere fact that I may differ with the views of the concerned advocates should not automatically make me a racist. Such a conclusion is simply erroneous. (And, for the record, I am not a racist.)”
The trouble with this assertion, which of course, assumes the parties, including Basson and Dali Mpofu are ‘innocent until proven guilty’, is that when it comes to an opinionated critic of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), Basson is also an “editor-in-chief of South Africa’s largest website News24” and former editor of Die Burger, and thus a member of an organisation opposed to the ‘transitional justice process’, in other words the outcome of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).
Basson is essentially the pitbull for a publishing concern which, despite its case-limited apology in 2015, clings to a version of history that is anything but truthful. A case of the pot calling the kettle black, since he took Dali Mpofu to task for his unsubstantiated aspersions against Judge President Dunstan Mlambo, during a round of hearings before the JSC, but thought nothing of his company deploying the exact same tactic when it came to hearings involving the TRC?
Naspers and its subsidiary Media24, has gone to elaborate lengths to avoid history, including tarnishing and scandalising the truth and reconciliation process before the courts, in the process engaging with acts of malfeasance and state capture (documented here), all calculated to stymie the victims and survivors of the apartheid regime. The company gave the ANC R1 million last year.
In its conclusions to the special inquiry into the media, Volume 4 of the TRC report stated: “As predicted by the chairperson of the Commission at the start of the media hearing, the absence of the Afrikaans press led to its being condemned as an extension and willing propaganda organ of apartheid.” [para 103, page 186]
The report thus issued its findings, including that: “The Afrikaans media (at least until the last few months of PW Botha’s tenure as State President) chose to provide direct support for apartheid and the activities of the security forces — many of which led directly to gross human rights violations.” [para 115, page 189]
It found also that: “The racism that pervaded most of white society permeated the media industry. This is supported by ample testimony presented to the Commission concerning the failure of many white journalists to delve thoroughly enough into allegations of gross human rights violations involving black people.”
“With the notable exception of certain individuals, the mainstream newspapers […] failed to report adequately on gross human rights violations. In so doing, they helped sustain and prolong the existence of apartheid.
Persons such as Basson were thus essentially found guilty in absentia in a proceeding whose legal authority and standing has never been tested in a court of law.