The Knysna-Plett Herald (KPH) has again failed our town. This time, they drowned objectivity in the estuary and jumped into bed with Eleanore Bouw-Spies and the Democratic Alliance (DA). I will address the newspaper’s lie as well as those who said, “Yay” further below.
Choosing what to report and how to present it is not the same as reporting what actually happened.
The KPH lost its integrity long ago when it refused to investigate some of the most important issues affecting our lives. My disrespect for them dug deeper when they ensured I wouldn’t appear in their pages, essentially taking sides with the Knysna Municipality and the politicians It’s far too coincidental that those groups are advertisers on their pages. You could play devil’s advocate and say that there wouldn’t be a newspaper without those adverts but I’d respond with an absence of a lie being better than a lie spoken.
To those who cheered when I said the KPH had chosen a side (your side), I ask you to consider how you would feel if you were embroiled in a situation and never got a say. Hypothetically, you are involved in a crime (as a victim or an avenger), yet the KPH presented the article through the eyes of the instigator or the attacker with no input from you. Would you feel betrayed?
Let’s put it another way by painting a picture in your mind to demonstrate that truth is a shifty thing and shifty journalism dangerous.
First you see a cat. Then, separately, a man driving in a car. Then there’s just the image of a cat squashed into the road. What are we to think except, “The man rode over the poor cat”?
But what if we added another image of a second car being driven by a lady talking on a cell phone. What are we to think now?
That is why it’s so important for the KPH to report the bigger picture. Regards Eleonor Bouw, they deliberately chose not to and began with a MASSIVE LIE:
“New Councillor for Ward 5 “
That was their header which totally ignored that a councillor had died and that a by-election has to be held with opposition parties competing. They announced a winner and installed a propaganda image in voter’s minds. They went further by glorifying Eleanore Bouw-Spies’ accomplishments.
- In the first paragraph alone, they used the words “very efficient”, “hands-on” and “capable”.
- They mentioned her many jobs since mayorship as if it were community work.
- They totally ignored the bigger story of why Eleonor, the ex-ANC Mayor, was running as a DA candidate.
- Instead of asking when Eleanore joined the DA, they quoted Cathy Weideman, the DA campaign manager, as saying that, “Bouw-Spies was elected as the best candidate because she has a broad understanding of Knysna and its community and is a dedicated member of the DA.” Besides the fact that they ignored her recent divorce (and that her name is now the shorter “Bouw”), they also skipped how could she possibly be a “dedicated member of the DA” if no one has reported her doing anything for the DA.
- They contradicted themselves with: “While Eleanore Bouw-Spies’ Facebook profile, as on Wednesday, May 28, suggests that she has been supporting the ANC until recently, the Knysna-Plett Herald learnt that she officially became a member of the DA this week.”
- Instead of retracting the article, they published an updated version with even more glorification the next day.
- They never queried Eleonor about the “jobs for pals” scandal that found her then-husband, Rowan Spies, in bed with politicians in Plett. This occurred whilst she was mayor [i will tell you much more about this issue later this week].
I like Eleonor more than any ANC Councillor so it was extremely ironic that I phoned Ralph Stander (ex-Deputy Mayor of Knysna and a member of the ANC’s provincial committee) to get a response. As expected, he expressed his outrage and went on to make a complaint to Heidi Vogel, the editor of the KPH. He forwarded his email and her response to me.
Ralph began with:
This story, especially the headline is factually wrong. The fact of the matter is that Eleanor is not the new councillor for Ward 5, but only the candidate for the DA. She’s also not replacing late councillor Magda Williams, but must first win the by-election to do that.
The whole article is very biased towards Eleanor and the DA and there’s not even an attempt to hide it. Who wrote this article? Was it a script of Eleanor or the DA? Are you the mouthpiece for the DA? If not why was this report published in the form that it was? Will you also publish an unedited script of the ANC and other parties/ contestants?
I demand that you correct this and place an apology to all the readers. Also that it is accompanied by this grievance letter and any others that might exist. If you fail to do that I won’t have a choice but to report you to the Press Ombudsman”
Heidi chose to dig the KPH deeper with a nonsense defence and a too-late offer of pretending equality:
“The headline and article are in fact correct. The Knysna Council (or any council) has the right to appoint a ward councillor when the position has become vacant due to death or resignation. Such an interim ward councillor will have to represent the same political affiliation as the person s/he he is replacing. This measure is necessary to prevent that the residents of a ward are unfairly left without representation in Council. Therefore, Eleanore Bouw-Spies has been appointed as ward councillor in Ward 5 as a DA representative, a position she will hold until the ward is contested in a by-election on July 2. At that stage, she will become the DA’s candidate for the position.
The article is not biased. It announces the fact that Bouw-Spies will take over the said position and provides information on who she is and her role in the community. No more and no less are called for in an article of this nature.
The Knysna-Plett Herald prides itself on its impartiality and objectivity. It is not a mouthpiece of the DA (in fact, we have probably been accused of being a mouthpiece for the ANC as often as we have been accused of being a mouthpiece for the DA). For information’s sake, in line with the constitutional right to free expression, any newspaper or publication may in fact choose to reflect the views of any political party, in the same way that a publication may choose to be a mouthpiece for a specific religion or for capitalist financial theory. However, the Knysna-Plett Herald chooses to support journalistic integrity as a news provider.
All media statements, including the one in question, issued to the newspaper are edited to conform with our reporting style and we may add or omit parts to be published, or not publish it at all. Should the ANC wish to issue a media statement to us, we will treat it in exactly the same way. The Knysna-Plett Herald has no qualms about publishing local and current news submitted by the ANC and other contestants. However, the ANC only extremely rarely submits any kind of press release to us. The ANC is very welcome to submit to us the name and relevant information of your candidate for the by-election. Please note that our newspaper does not entertain political slandering, nor to-and-fro debates between parties.
We consider this matter now closed.”
No, Heidi. The matter is not closed. It’s on Knysna Keep.
Enrico Campher, who was previously the Legal Advisor at Eden District Municipality, then entered the conversation with:
I refer to the email from Heidi Vogel from Group Editors, and I wish to express my utter disgust with the factual and legal incorrect statements made by Vogel. It is clear that she obtained her false information from none other than the DA itself or from Eleanore Bouw-Spies. The law is clear that when a ward councillor dies or, resign or been removed, a vacancy is declared by the IEC and a by-election must be held. It seems to me that the DA has rewritten the Municipal Structures Act 117 of 1998 and the Municipal Electoral Act. I would suggest that this matter be reported to the IEC and the Press Ombudsman.
I then addressed Heidi and Enrico:
Thank you for that clarification, Enrico. You’ve saved me time. I had seen Ralph’s email last night and told him that I’d query Heidi but had to delay that as I’ve been waiting most of the day for a lawyer to respond to me with clarification (i failed to find the relevant law within SALGA). As this is a contentious issue, and I expect election madness, it’s important that this be reported on accurately.
Additionally, I’ve been public about the incredibly poor manner in which the Knysna-Plett Herald has treated me so don’t want to appear biased.
To find me extra careful, Enrico, will you please send me a copy of the relevant laws by midday tomorrow (Saturday).
Ralph, i expect that an accusation war is going to fly between the ANC and the DA over Eleonor. I hope that you equal the respect i’m giving this issue by having the ANC answer any queries of mine that may arise. The amount of honest communication between the political parties and the public is practically non-existent (claims of glory do not beat real answers on tough issues).
Heidi, the ball is in your court too. Please forward me proof of who you gave you the wrong information (also by midday tomorrow).
The second query to Heidi: The article (see attached) was emotional and clearly lacked objectivity. It was blatant support of a political party. Why was it published and who wrote it? If you counter by saying it was a press release then please send me the original mail (as an attachment) and explain why the Knysna-Plett Herald never stated that it was a press release. The KPH is a newspaper. Does your parent, Group Editors, expect you to ask the opposition for feedback?
Third query to Heidi: How will you fairly represent all parties in both the upcoming by-election and the forthcoming municipal elections?
I have no love for Knysna’s political system or the people within it (i consider all three parties to have failed us) but consider newspapers taking sides as adding fuel to a fire that’s already unhelpful to Knysna. I hope that proves not to be the case here.
Thank you, all, in advance, for your cooperation.
I asked Enrico to provide greater clarity to which he responded with:
- Section 25 of the Local Government Structures Act sets out the circumstances when a by-election must be called.
- Section 25(1) (d) is relevant in our case where a vacancy in a ward occurs.
- Section 25(3) requires the municipal manager of the municipality concerned, after consultation with the Electoral Commission and by notice in a local newspaper, call and set a date for the by-election, which must be held within 90 days of the date on (d) the vacancy occurred.
I also sent that email to Nicole Rimbault (ex-Moolman), Heidi’s big boss whose the Operations Director at Group Editors in George. When they never responded, I informed them that I would extend the deadline to Monday, midday and hoped they would cooperate. They didn’t.
THE KNYSNA-PLETT HERALD HAS CHOSEN, IN TRUE NON-JOURNALISTIC STYLE, TO NOT RESPOND!
Newspaper impartiality is always important but especially with regards to elections in our volatile country. In a greater context, I have hated the ANC’s approach to the Secrecy Bill but criticise bias media too because surely they enforced that route.
We must also keep in mind that Group Editors has newspapers across the Garden Route. This could be a sign of a much greater problem.
Ironically, the Knysna-Plett Herald, has lately failed to fall into the Municipality’s good graces. Maybe this was an attempt to get back in? Or maybe a journalist or editor doing Eleonor a favour in case she got back into power? With a situation so blatantly wrong, i have to wonder.
Clive Barker, the author, said that there were only 3 players in any story (and that the rest are peripheral). Here, they are the politician, the political party and the newspaper. Barker said that 3 would become 2… then 1… and then the stage deserted. I can hope that becomes true for the sake of a more honest Knysna.
Just imagine a world where politicians didn’t exist and newspapers were unnecessary…
NB: The Knysna-Plett Herald has misstepped many times before. What is their agenda? Check out other stories under ‘Possibly Related Articles’ below this post.
Update – June 3: Small Victory: The Press Ombudsman has responded to my complaint about the Knysna-Plett Herald who has now changed the header of their article and promised to run an article on the opposition. I have thanked the Ombudsman but said that is insufficient because it does not address many other things (which i’d mentioned in the blog above). The KPH should not have been forced to act. And the KPH and their owners, Group Editors, still refuse communication with me. If there are further developments, i will naturally share.