Political Discourse in SA, as set and controlled by our “analysts’ leaves much to be desired

August 16, 2011

Who guards the guardians?


Ashraf Garda on today’s afternoon talk on SAFM posed the question who is SA’s best political analyst. The thinking with the show was whom we often as South Africans consider objective in their analysis and political opinions. The reality as I indicated to Ashraf is this question is a misplaced one for before we can get to who is the best, we must first deal with the prevalent hurdles constituting political discourse as set by the known analysts.

I penned a note not so long ago analyzing the Native Intellectual for its visible absence in political discourse. I cited that if they have any presence, it is   fashionable in opposition politics formation.  This means when they analyse it is in the interest of what I termed “white thinking” which proves pervasive in post apartheid context.  My argument has matured to include all public intellectuals aka analysts. In South Africa today you are seen as lackey of Government if you share and attribute credit to the transformation paradigm manifested in the ANC led government, you are equally honoured and showered as an independent mind if you necessarily opposed to Post – 1994 political unfolding.

These and many other paradoxes leaves me wondering if we are not forced fed a diet concocted by ‘imbedded analysis’ where analysts drink from the same cup of brotherhood in which they articulate in academic astuteness and pronounce in political bed rocked an analysis which sets the discourse of what we deem politics in SA.   Have already postulated in my earlier note, – The Crises of the Native Intellectual – the challenge of Intellectualism is the proximity of its nuanced historic affinity to the concept and subject of elitism. This notion is visible in South Africa and purports to be at variance with what should inform our public experience of analysts in written and oral expression

I will raise a number of issues I find troublesome with what we call analysts or the public intellectual in SA, as we now have to contend.

  1. Firstly, my observation and experience of the analysts are that they necessarily formulate opinion heavily clouded by personal, political and race ideology. In the early 90’s there was an analyst Eugene Nyathi of Zimbabwean descent who had the country informed by an SABC – Media hanging on his lips. Nyathi prove essentially sanguine with a true analyst when he pronounced, postulated and argued his views exemplified in analysis. The truth is when Nyathi’s credentials were investigated it was found mendacious and embellished to say the least. Whilst very few could falter Nyathi on his analysis, he was sent into oblivion when the credentials did not match up.


That for me is my departure point, if there was nothing off in Nyathi’s analysis why was education or the lack thereof used as a tool to deal with him. Even more if his analysis proved consistent, well informed and resonating in political discourse embrace – which had stake to prove him offside on credentials? A last question is if his analysis came as raw information and truthfully dealt with the core issues separating in proverbial sense the wheat from the chaff, why was education informed by degrees made the basis of such adjudication I am not dealing in my argument here with the moral challenge of proving deceiving, that is acceptable as necessarily untoward and not correct, for which anyone must be exposed. The issue was did his analysis prove analysis devoid of education embrace?


  1. Out of this argument for education to be used as base to be an analyst I wish to contend it simply does not hold, nor is a good barometer for such analysis adjudication especially when we have today analysts in public domain who either have or don’t have the venerated academic credentials.  The SAFM show, as led by Ashraf proved that public opinion simply proves opposite to who and what is being emphasised in the media. When I say that I am saying the name of regular callers who often share their opinions were rather visible in comparison to the usual public intellectuals we are forced-fed. Secondly this debate confirms the fact that it is vacuous to claim, branded public intellectuals are necessarily the natural guardians of what informs discourse in our society.
  2. There appears to be no accountability on the part of analysts or public intellectuals to admit they were wrong when their analysis regardless to the initial claim of ‘research’ is proven wanton.  Terms like research are highly contested and less defined terms if it comes to political discourse. Whilst research can prove empirical evidence of a claim in substantive form, research is wide term and as we have seen in our chequered and post apartheid history a highly convoluted concept. Often the public intellectuals claim their research, proves a subject or not. Yet we as the general public are never given the research methodology applied, the degree of variable influence, the structure of such research and the assumptions made for such research and off course the actual empirical evidence by which such findings were concluded. In the absence of the above being generously shared with the public by the public intellectuals we are force-fed a diet of opinion informed by arm-chair dictate.
  3. Analysts appear to have an unwritten, unspoken code of ‘ethic’ in which they perpetuate the dictums of their collective conclusions, such ethic appears to embrace a written rule of never oppose each other.  There is a huge sense of aloofness in the conclusive views and opinions advanced. One can’t but see a proverbial herd mentality.
  4. Analysis in Post Apartheid context proves correct, acceptable, sensible, objective and necessarily academic if such is necessarily anti-establishment, critiquing the Government or opposing the transformation mandate. When I argue this here it is not seeking to be banal in arguing for a hero worshipping of Government or state, but necessarily for an objective understanding of themes put into public embrace as analysis.
  5. Analysts,  it appears also have sworn a secrecy code, in which the public may not know their personal voting patterns in democratic embrace, yet their opinions on such elections unfolding and concomitant effects are taken into analysis as people who don’t live in this epoch in a South Africa, in which a polarised context dictates the meridian of our analysis.  This means if an analyst identifies with a particular political stream informed by his persuasion of ideology, history, class or status they necessarily will speak from such or at least cannot escape the influence of such on their hermeneutics. I think it is high time we the public ask of analysts to share with us their paradigm of political party embrace for it is simply superfluous to perpetuate an idea that such do not inform their analysis. It is my view that we the public have a right to know who the public intellectual votes for and why? For these analysts necessarily sets the scope of political discourse in SA.
  6. Analysts often claim to speak and share the prism of the general grassroots public; they prove categorical in their claims as the custodians of such grassroots voice. Yet they equally fail to tell us by what exacted mandate they have earned this assumed right to speak on behalf of the masses.  It seems very illogical to advance the view that you speak as a public intellectual on behalf of the masses yet you cannot show us the dotted lines that leads to this grassroots powerbase from the so-called analysis made and advanced.
  7. Analysis as I argued in the Eugene Nyathi case appears to have little to do with academic celebration in a PHD as some want to advance, for there are those today  in public intellectual embrace who are necessarily academically qualified who have gone the full course of the normal process and crowned with such PHD, yet there are those who have made short-cuts to the same proverbial Mt. Everest Summit, assisted by their skills, previous research and who have proven active in discourse long before they had a basic qualification merited in degree exemplification.  Whilst we can cite some of them for it is time we know some of our public intellectuals are not as decorated academically as they are made out to be. Some don’t have a basic degree, honours, master’s degree, or even a doctorate. Others were fast-tracked as I indicated earlier, these know themselves.  I am deliberately stating this here to prove we the general public are less moved or persuaded by a degree to prove the public intellectual’s worth – we are necessarily interested in the actual analysis and how such was arrived at.
  8. Our analysts prove annoying when confronted with the challenge of being questioned.  Having interacted with a number of them, I have concluded it is almost a ‘mafia-clique’ that guards each other and simply do not do well with critique.
  9. Our analysts often adopts a arrogated right to be correct in their analysis, they have yet to challenge each other, and give us the prism of the thinking in a contested environment where the raw engagement of theory and praxis meet each other in political discourse embrace.
  10. Another critical issue in South Africa is the media, defined as SABC and others – Media profiles the public intellectual hence a programme manager and producer can unilaterally decide who they want to include in the debate on a critical aspect. Analysis then becomes clouded by preference instead of objectivity. Some analysts are profiled and it is not difficult to see where they stand ideologically for the institutions, agencies, private concerns and civil societies already gave us their hidden political ideologies. Hence our claim we know where they come from in the analysis for we see them association.
  11. The bigotry of transparency advanced by the public intellectuals manifested in seeing Government as an enemy of the public is the fallacy of what I choose to call “imbedded analysis” the same that parade in volumes across the pages of our newspapers. Yet the analyst expect of Government who legitimately have been trusted by the masses not to have their own communications channels for such would necessarily prove a propaganda machinery the same they argue is not welcome in democracy as a system.
  12. Analysts and public intellectuals write and pronounce from the vested interest of their personal economic welfare. Not so long ago when  Dr. Xolile Mangcu was challenged as to why he fails to prove objective on Min. Tokyo Sexwale (a public persona) the dotted lines led to a conclusion he benefitted in monetary terms from Sexwale to do research work informed by a proposal. What can be deduced from this is that the public intellectual may prove bias informed by who lines his/ her pocket. We in this country know the strength of for example business, or racial groups such as Afrikaner and Jewish lobby groups (please don’t deliberately misread this as racial slur – for that is not the debate – nor prove sensitive as me attacking any grouping) is it possible that our public intellectuals are being paid from these coffers of business embraced in ‘research’ informed by an ideology, yet draped in so called ‘scholarly’ analysis.


It is safe to conclude political discourse in the country is poor often one-sided and has been hijacked by elitist. It owes such poverty to the stated issues I have raised herein as my hypothesis.

I am contending there is a desperate need to vet all public intellectuals, and such vetting must make them necessarily accountable for their analysis for the general public prove too forgiving towards them when they get it horribly wrong. To cite such example, the issue of the appointment of the Chief Justice, was made yesterday, not a single public intellectual thought the name of the appointed individual will come up, not to mention even on the shortlist. Since the president’s choice of Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng caught them all napping they will now start a discourse as the New Age “analysts’ Charles Molele already attests, in his article “Chief Justice an embarrassing “dark horse” to condemn the presidents choice as an incorrect one, such is less informed by evaluation but preference.


We need not go far to prove the unaccountability of the public intellectuals for their views and opinions are recorded on specific subject matters, the same can be pulled from file to prove how off they were. The same I will highlight much later in my academic paper POLITICAL DISCOURSE IN POST APARTHEID HIJACKED IN THE NAME OF THE MASSES.


When I state here analysis we must understand it remains their opinion yet such opinions are shared as ‘uncontested truth’ draped in hidden ‘research’ pronounced from ‘secured platforms’ and necessarily with an ‘agenda’ in which pockets have been lined for research proposals, that makes the  public intellectual gods unto themselves when they no different to a George Soros can speculate  playfully and threaten the livelihood of millions as they set the paradigm for discourse in the general public domain.

I have made it my duty to challenge this arrogated moral high ground of the public intellectuals and I have been surprised to find how iffy and annoying these analysts prove when pushed to corners.

It is high time the general public exact a claim of accountability against all public intellectuals, who have proven in a scholarly way a moribund group of untouchables, cloaked in elitist embrace and claiming to speak with a grassroots constituency.

Let us debate what constitutes  analysis, Let us ask what makes for a public intellectual, Let us debate why they can or should lay claim to speak on behalf of the masses or grassroots. Let us know from what  plateau they inherit the right to claim such moral high- ground, let us equally know their qualifications and fields of expertise, let us know who pay for their research, and let us know their political affiliation and their voting history.


Let them share liberally their research methodologies and findings before they pronounce in an almost Gospel fashion.


Bishop Clyde N. Ramalaine

As published in “The Thinking Masses”

August 16, 2011



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