A journey into how investigative journalists uncovered the alleged corruption scandal surrounding former South African president Jacob Zuma and the Gupta family.
[NOTE: How to Steal a Country, available until July 27, 2022.]
When a group of investigative journalists discovered far-reaching corruption involving Jacob Zuma, then president of South Africa, a pernicious disinformation campaign was mounted against the integrity of the newsroom. Then one day, two young men working in an IT company found the evidence that laid bare the entire modus operandi behind the capture of the South African state by private individuals with the help of politicians.
Thanks to their good friend Zuma, members of the Indian Gupta family were able to use the proceeds of an entire nation for their own gain, acquiring holdings in coal mines, media and IT companies, and even government positions. When finally a Judicial Commission of Inquiry is installed, Zuma also comes to testify. His defence: it’s all lies and fake news.
In interviews, investigative journalists express their concerns about the global drift towards ever-increasing entanglement between business and government, and the polarization it brings: presidents and multinationals live unassailably in their own bubble. As a journalist, all you can do is make life in the bubble a little less comfortable. Is there still room for justice in South Africa’s hard-won fledgling democracy?
By Rehad Desai
We have been encouraged to ignore the facts and indeed the truth, some have called this the post truth era. The propagandistic power of social media is now being actively exploited by the political and economic elites to influence public opinion like never before. In the telling of the Gupta story I wanted to show how journalists have become protagonists in the fight for truth and democracy, a reality of our times that I feel truly privileged to be able bring to the screen.
Finally there is an urgency to this film as the investigative work by journalists and others to expose corruption and state capture has meant that they are being increasingly targeted by sinister shadow forces and ‘finger-puppets’ doing the Gupta/Zuma bidding.
This brings back strong memories of confronting Apartheid. The betrayal of the sacrifices made by millions of people who fought for a vision of a new and truly democratic order, has made it necessary to again take up the cudgels to fight for the kind of political order where justice prevails. In this fight, documentary film can be a very powerful tool, raising awareness and enabling unification among different sectors of society.
Storyteller airs every Sunday at 1800 GMT. Live stream: https://bit.ly/2LDmffl