Apartheid-era sleaze, especially during the sanctions period, ushered in a series of financial crimes of Bon Jovi ballad proportions. That billions were stolen have never been much of a secret, but nailing downright villains has always been a challenge. The uncynical view is that former finance minister Trevor Manuel and his advisors were under the impression that chasing the missing cash would destroy the delicate green shoots of the post-apartheid economy – a decision that, like so many back in those days, dispensed with justice in favour of “stability”. The more cynical view is that the ANC cut a deal with the apartheid scum, one that traded cover-ups on pre-changeover crimes for help on perpetrating post-changeover heists.
Yet there has been very little reflection on the weaknesses of investigative journalism as it’s currently practiced. All too often, investigative journalism tends to focus on elite (mis)conduct, failing to recognise that the power dynamics at grassroots level should constitute the stuff of investigative journalism too. Investigative stories are often confined to the major urban areas. Many journalists have been overly reliant on a narrow range of sources, especially leaks and tip-offs from disgruntled political figures, to break stories. Many of these stories are passed for investigative journalism, but in fact are not. Leaks and tip off-driven journalism can make journalists lazy, discouraging proactive investigation and making them susceptible to manipulation by hidden political agendas. At a deeper level, it can reinforce the tendency for news agendas to be set on a top-down basis. – Jane Duncan at SACSISBACK TO TOP