The presidency on Tuesday called an opinion piece by columnist Max du Preez about President Jacob Zuma racist and mind-boggling.
“The piece smacks of prejudice and racism given the manner in which Mr du Preez describes the president,” the presidency said in a statement.
“The presidency is alarmed by the personal attack on President Jacob Zuma.”
In an article published by Independent Newspapers, titled “Zuma – SA’s one-man wrecking ball”, Du Preez says the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the Hawks were the “latest victims” of Zuma’s “demolition of democracy”.
“The devastation caused by… Zuma will take years to rebuild, even if he were to leave office tomorrow.”
Du Preez offers his analysis of the political machinations he believes are behind the appointment of Tom Moyane as Sars commissioner in September, and the suspension earlier this month of Hawks head Anwa Dramat.
Calling the article, a “mind-boggling opinion piece”, the presidency said when disciplinary action was taken against public servants it would have nothing to do with Zuma.
“The knee jerk reaction of blaming the president for everything that happens in institutions without any attempt to verify the information indicates lazy and mischievous journalism,” it said.
The presidency took exception to a reference Du Preez makes to Zuma’s “corrupt relationship (in the words of a judge) with his financial adviser”.
The presidency said the remark in question — when Judge Hilary Squires was reported by the media to have said Zuma had a “generally corrupt relationship” with convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik — had already been refuted. In November 2006, Squires wrote to Business Day indicating he never uttered those words.
The presidency said that neither Independent Newspapers nor Du Preez had given it an opportunity to respond to the “serious allegations” against Zuma.
“This failure to observe such a basic tenet of the journalism trade is disturbing as it is becoming a trend in some sections of the media.”
Responding to the presidency’s statement, Du Preez told Sapa: “My only comment is that my column was an opinion piece, not reportage.”
In a tweet he said: “I’m a liar and a racist. Shame on me”, along with a link to the presidency’s statement online.
Independent Media said it noted the presidency’s comments.
“Columns and opinion pieces are covered in the press code under comment and the practice is that newspapers are not required to seek a response to comment pieces as long as it passes the test of fair comment,” the media group said in a statement.
“We stand by Mr Du Preez and his and our independence in this regard.” SAPA