SA President Thabo Mbeki has criticised the Afrikaans daily Beeld for its coverage of the African Union summit recently held in Addis Ababa, writes Bate Felix.
In his weekly “letter from the president” on the ANC website last
Friday, the president said reports and headlines in Beeld and other
media “convey a dismal message of African failure and an entrenched,
virtually genetic, African disaster”.

Most reports on the recently held summit carried headlines such as
“African Union ends without progress,”  “African Union summit fails to
agree on an African government,” “Somalia: AU Summit Concludes with
Failure of Raising 8,000 Peacekeepers for Somalia,” and “Sudan again
fails in bid to lead African Union”.

Mbeki said they conveyed the message “once communicated by a
prestigious European magazine a few years ago under the dramatic title,
“Africa: the Hopeless Continent,” suggesting the persistence of a
psychological fixation that feeds a centuries-old and deeply entrenched
global Afro-pessimism that is incapable of comprehending any facts
indicating that our continent is steadily responding to its most
important challenges”.

“Our own Beeld newspaper,” Mbeki wrote, carried an article, entitled, ‘SA denies buying time on crime’.”

 “Among other things” he continued, “this article said the report of
the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) on South Africa was not tabled
before the AU's heads of state, as planned.”

“The South African government has strongly denied that it intervened on
Sunday to prevent discussion by the African Union of a report that
strongly criticised the crime rate in this country, (South Africa),
among other things,” he quoted the paper saying.

Mbeki added: “The Beeld report went further to say that I had made some
comments about the APRM report on South Africa, while attending the
AU's bi-annual conference in the Tanzanian capital”.

Mbeki wrote, “with regard to the simple matter of facts, contrary to
what the Beeld says, Addis Ababa is the capital of Ethiopia and not
Tanzania. The APRM reports are presented to the APR Forum, and not the
‘AU heads of state’.

“In addition,” Mbeki went on, “the Beeld reporter who wrote that
Nigerian President Obasanjo delivered his ‘opening address’ at the APR
Forum on Sunday (28 January), which would consider the APRM reports,
should be aware of the simplest of facts that the AU (Assembly) of
heads of state began the following day, Monday 29 January, and not

“This reporter should have known that the opening address at the
meeting of AU heads of state would be made by the then current
chairperson of the AU, President Denis Sassou-Nguessou of
Congo-Brazzaville, and not the President of Nigeria!” he said.

Liesl Louw, the Africa editor for Media24, blamed the mistakes on
translation errors. She said the original Afrikaans version that
appeared in Beeld did not contain these errors.

Louw said they will be responding to Mbeki. She added that though these
errors are inexcusable, the fact remains that the actual story is
correct, especially the “tabling and withdrawal of the peer review
report, which was not contended by Mbeki,” she said.