The Steinhoff matter has been reported on very differently from how corruption in the public sector is reported on generally. It has also been reported on differently from how corruption by black businessmen in the private sector is reported.
This is the view of academic and transformation expert Asanda Ngoasheng, who has critiqued the media reportage on the matter, pointing out that Steinhoff and Naspers have been reported on “in kind terms”.
“Steinhoff led to the loss of 12 billion and more from the balance sheet of the government employees’ pension fund scheme, but there were no infographics breaking down the real loss, as there would have been had it been government or black business corruption reported on.
“Fraud, insider trading, financial misconduct and basically running a pyramid scheme were euphemistically referred to as someone having ‘made a mistake’,” Ngoasheng said.
“The same can be said for the Naspers corruption and interference by the CEO of Naspers in government policy making. The actions of Naspers executives together with their government collaborators has delayed an important national and international project of digitisation.
“The real losers of this fraud and corruption are once again black and mostly poor because we will continue to have less space in the airways. Digitisation brings the potential of freedom of the airwaves, potential for more South African languages, more diverse voices to be heard, but all of that has been held up by the greed of Naspers and its executives,” she said.
Ngoasheng also stated that “our media has a history of reporting with racial bias towards white men and women and treating black men and women in the harshest possible terms for exactly the same crimes”.
She is also not surprised by the minimal backlash that has befallen Markus Jooste, as the country comes from a history of apartheid. She said in this system, there was a lot done to create an impression of blacks as incompetent and corrupt criminals.
“In order to justify oppressing black people apartheid needed both the white and, ironically, black population to buy into the myth that black people are incapable of ruling or running a business successfully. This is why during apartheid it was illegal for black people to go to university, start a business and do many things unless granted permission by the apartheid government.
“This allowed for only a few black people to be allowed to be successful business people so that they can be wheeled out as proof that the country was not racist whilst also creating the impression that black people were generally not competent in much of the activities that the white population engaged in daily,” she explained.
Ngoasheng also believes the racial bias of the media did not die with the end of apartheid. “It continues unabated in media houses with black media workers sometimes doing the bidding and spewing internalised racism as analysis. Our media, like society in general, continues to give the benefit of the doubt to white people across the spectrum, whilst black people are treated as guilty until proven innocent. This is visible in the analysis of all South African politics and private-sector dealings.”