Thursday, December 14, 2017

Can Africa Check be trusted?

Can Africa Check be trusted?

Ernst Roets | 14 December 2017

Ernst Roets says the fact checking organisation has credibility issues

Africa Check’s credibility crisis

To use inaccurate statistics in public can be catastrophic to a person or organisation’s credibility. Unfortunately, it is evident that everyone is not equally concerned about this. It is precisely for this reason that there is a real need in South Africa for an institution such as Africa Check, founded to verify the correctness of statements made by public figures.

Unfortunately, Africa Check has established itself as an organisation that actively promotes a particular political ideology and that is fixed on publishing sensational findings under overdramatised headings rather than engaging in sincere fact checking. Not only have I repeatedly been misquoted by Africa Check and declared to have been “wrong” or “dishonest” based on something I never said – I have also repeatedly seen it happen to others.

The first time was in 2013, shortly after the founding of Africa Check, when one of their fact checkers called me to clarify a certain statement that I made regarding white poverty. I was quoted on BBC to have said that more than a hundred thousand white people live in circumstances “like these”. The circumstances in question involved people living in Wendy houses, back rooms, derelict buildings and other kinds of housing. Africa Check reported my statement to be false, based on a survey which found that 8 000 white families lived in shacks, caravans and tents. This is the very definition of a straw man argument: concluding that someone is dishonest because something he never said isn’t true. What is even more interesting about that encounter was the way in which I was quoted by Africa Check. We discussed the matter telephonically in Afrikaans. When the story was published, my words were translated into terrible English, complete with “sic” indications. The misrepresentation of someone as being not proficient in English raises questions about that person’s intelligence and makes it easier to question facts presented.

I have repeatedly noticed that people affiliated with Africa Check position themselves as ideological activists, rather than objective fact checkers. I have also noted an apparent lack of training in logical reasoning. For example, when a notable individual linked to Africa Check (allegedly in charge of training) tweeted the following: “Because let’s be honest, it’s MORE FUCKING LIKELY ALL WHITE MEN WILL GO TO THE MOON THAN LOSE THE VOTE”, and I responded with “This type of tweeting is damaging to @AfricaCheck’s reputation as a non-partisan fact checker”, that same person responded to my tweet, claiming that I accused her of committing hate speech. #Strawman.

Earlier, Dr Frans Cronje, CEO of the South African Institute of Race Relations, stated the following with reference to Africa Check:

“(T)here is a strong propensity to declare as ‘wrong’ or ‘incorrect’ fact-based claims that could easily be argued to be right. This is dangerous as it will deter journalists, researchers, and politicians from citing data in their analyses.”

Africa Check lashed back, reporting him to have said something completely different and attacking him based on that which they have made up. The acting editor of Africa Check wrote,

“In a Politicsweb article, Frans Cronje of the IRR then criticised Africa Check for questioning the institute’s findings and suggested that scrutinising the evidence, good or bad, for claims made in public debate is ‘dangerous’.”

By responding as such to Cronje’s statement, Africa Check confirmed that there was merit in his concern. Read it again… What Cronje said was that it was “dangerous” to declare as “wrong” or “incorrect” fact-based claims that could easily be argued to be right. Africa Check then claimed that he said that scrutinising evidence for claims made in public debate was ‘dangerous’ and then criticised him based on what they falsely claimed him to have said. Seriously?

As was the case in my own experience, the portrayal of Cronje’s statement could only be one of two things: A malicious misrepresentation of his statement, or a negligent misrepresentation of his statement.

More recently, Africa Check published a sensational story in which it claimed that AfriForum was lying about farm murders. They conclude this after analysing what they claim to be AfriForum’s position on farm murder statistics. This analysis, however, only proves that the author had a flawed perception of AfriForum’s position on farm murder statistics and seemingly doesn’t understand the underlying nuances of the topic. Had Africa Check attended any one of the many conferences and events where I had personally explained AfriForum’s position on farm murder statistics, they probably would have taken a different approach. This would, however, have resulted in a less sensational, less clickbait-friendly analysis. I explained AfriForum’s position and the challenges on the statistics regarding farm attacks on several occasions, and also wrote extensively about it in a book that will be published in the next year.

AfriForum has repeatedly outlined the flaws in the available data on farm murders, but believes the data to be the most reliable attempt to calculate a ratio at which commercial farmers are being murdered. Africa Check however suggests that we at AfriForum are oblivious to the very same flaws in the data which we have pointed out ourselves, then criticises AfriForum’s conclusion, committing a series of calculation errors and logical fallacies in the process, only to conclude that AfriForum was dishonest from the get-go. All the while, Africa Check has made no attempt to provide a more accurate calculation for the ratio at which South African commercial farmers are murdered and prefers to stick to a conclusion based on the fact that the calculation is not perfect, inadvertently confirming AfriForum’s initial stance: that the data has certain flaws which should be taken note of, but that the calculation used by AfriForum is the best attempt at quantifying the ratio.

In an article dramatically entitled Racial scaremongering in South Africa makes light of women’s murders, Africa Check responded to claims made by Steve Hofmeyr regarding black-on-white crime. Hofmeyr had stated that “white women are likely to be murdered by unknown black males”. Africa Check’s team aggressively reacted on Twitter and responded with an analysis, declaring his claim to be false. Africa Check however failed in its own analysis, misinterpreting the sources that they have chosen to disprove Hofmeyr, when those sources prove that there is merit in Hofmeyr’s claim.

Put differently, what we have repeatedly seen Africa Check do is to respond to a person or organisation that argues, for example, that 1 + 1 = 2 by stating that this person is wrong or dishonest because Africa Check can prove that 2 + 2 is in fact 4 and not 2. Electrifying language such as “dodgy stats”, “dishonest” and “scaremongering” is then used, presumably to clickbait readers into visiting their website.

Having experienced that Africa Check misrepresents the views of those whose facts they check, that they compare apples with oranges, and that the organisation (or at least some of its reporters) are ideological activists who lack training in logical reasoning or the application of their training, it is evident that the organisation has a growing credibility crisis.

Ernst Roets

Ernst is Deputy CEO of AfriForum

Sourced from Politicsweb

Saturday, November 18, 2017

ZIMBABWE – Calling a Spade a Spade

Cartoon by Mark Wiggett

So - Zimbabwe’s old heroic freedom-fighter has finally been removed from his throne. There’s no point in celebrating though because at this point in time it seems highly probable that the old tyrant will be succeeded by his Marxist comrade-in-arms, Emmerson Mnangagwa, another heartless tyrant.

What more can I say? The chronology of Zimbabwe’s catastrophic failure has already been well documented over the years. Neighbouring South Africa’s disastrous ruin, my home country, is also being well documented. The political ideologies of both countries are similar and both countries will, in all likelihood, be governed by like-minded corrupt buffoons for many more years to come.

It grieves me though to see how the MSM has cunningly reflected falsehoods as truth, and how they continue to describe these immoral and corrupt African ‘leaders’ as liberators and freedom-fighters.

They are terrorists dammit and nothing has changed!

In my view they were terrorists back then, they ARE still terrorists and they will remain terrorists forever, even when they’re dead - no matter how many statues are erected in their honour to remind the sheeple that they are liberators and not terrorists.

Mangosuthu Buthelezi, one of South Africa’s true great leaders, once published an honest report in his weekly newsletter titled, ZIMBABWE – IT IS TIME TO CALL A SPADE A SPADE. That was way back in the year 2008. It’s worth reading again!

Here is a quote from one paragraph in his newsletter:
For too long, we have blindly chanted the mantra "African solutions to Africa’s problems" as we have stood by and witnessed widespread genocide, ethnic cleansing, pillaging and looting, corruption and nepotism and voter gerrymandering on a grand scale across our continent over the last two decades. ~ Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP.
With that said, it is comforting to see one British journalist, Stephen Glover, speaking the absolute truth about Zimbabwe - calling a spade a spade. Wouldn't it be great if more journalists, writing for the MSM, follow suit with South Africa’s similar predicament?


The forced removal from power of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe should be cause for celebration, since he has been one of the wickedest despots on earth, who in his 37-year rule brought the once prosperous country of Zimbabwe close to ruin.

But unfortunately he seems likely to be succeeded by his former collaborator and Marxist comrade-in-arms, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who until last week was Vice-President. This man is probably as brutal, nasty and tyrannical as Mugabe.

So it grieves me to say that the future for Zimbabwe — the former British colony of Rhodesia — looks as grim today as it did before the army coup against Mugabe. The head of the army, General Chiwenga, is another very unpleasant piece of work.

How did it happen that a country which was once a net exporter of food has been reduced to its pitiable state by self-serving and corrupt politicians who live like kings while some of their people starve, and 90 per cent are unemployed?

The answer to that question is that we, the British, nurtured and succoured Mugabe. He is our creation. Yet there is a widespread view, which must be debunked, that the man was not always a monster, and only became so when left to his own devices.

In the space of a few minutes on Radio 4 yesterday morning, Mugabe was three times described as a 'former freedom-fighter'. Then the Tory MP Nicholas Soames asserted that for a number of years after becoming leader of Zimbabwe in 1980 he had behaved quite well but changed later for the worse. Both notions are utterly wrong.

In truth, Mugabe was always a brute, and he was a terrorist not a 'freedom-fighter'. And almost from the moment he achieved power, he continued in his old ways of murdering his opponents.

But why should anyone be surprised? During the war against Ian Smith's white-minority Rhodesian government in the Seventies, Mugabe's troops were guilty of numerous terrorist atrocities.

In particular, they targeted — which means they killed — white missionaries in the belief that such acts of terror would subjugate rural blacks to their cause. At least 33 missionaries and members of their families were murdered.

In one gruesome incident in June 1978, Mugabe's terrorists — not 'freedom-fighters' — axed, bayonetted and clubbed eight British missionaries and four of their children in eastern Rhodesia. Of five women, most were sexually assaulted before they were killed, and one was mutilated.

After Mugabe became prime minister following the Lancaster House Agreement brokered by the British government, he set about eliminating his enemies. In 1983, a campaign of terror was launched against the Matabele people in western Zimbabwe.

The 'crime' of the Matabele, in Mugabe's mind, was that many of them supported his Matabele rival, Joshua Nkomo. An estimated 20,000 people were slaughtered by Mugabe's Fifth Brigade, which had been trained by North Korea.

So when Nicholas Soames implies all was reasonably hunky-dory until Mugabe started confiscating white-owned farms around the year 2000, he is talking nonsense. I suppose he is seeking to defend his father, Christopher, who was briefly Governor of Rhodesia while the Lancaster House Agreement was implemented.

The British government of the time was similarly deluded. It continued to pet and buttress the Mugabe regime, and Foreign Office types congratulated themselves for having installed such a reasonable fellow. Almost unbelievably, in 1994 he was given an honorary knighthood (of which he was not stripped until 2008).

We sold Mugabe Hawk fighter-trainer aircraft, which were later used by him in an illegal war in the Congo. We also sold some 1,500 Land Rover Defenders to the Zimbabwean police at half price, weakly requesting that they would not be used for riot control. They often were.

It was only when Mugabe illegally seized control of white-owned farms that the scales began to fall from the eyes of his cheerleaders in this country: most of the Labour Party, sections of the Tory Party, the Foreign Office, the BBC and swathes of the British Press.

As many of these farms were given to Mugabe's cronies, most of whom weren't interested in farming, or very proficient at it if they were, agricultural production slumped, and a country that had been the bread basket of Africa was driven into poverty.

It is a sorry tale — as sorry as they come, even in poor, benighted Africa. I don't at all excuse Ian Smith, the white prime minister of Rhodesia who declared independence from Britain in 1965. His fatal flaw was his refusal to encourage moderate African leaders until it was too late.

But in my experience, most black Zimbabweans who remember the Smith era prefer it to what has happened in more recent times under the malign, corrupt and intermittently violent Mugabe regime.

At least Smith (who fought with the RAF as a pilot in the war, and was badly scarred) was not corrupt. A few years before his death in 2007, I interviewed him at home in what was a very modest house in the suburbs of the capital, Harare.

Mugabe, by contrast, has enriched himself grotesquely. His venal wife, Grace (who may have fled the country), has dug her talons even deeper into government coffers, acquiring homes in Dubai and South Africa, as well as a £300,000 Rolls-Royce.

The fascinating question is why commentators and politicians persisted in admiring this ghastly man when it should have been plain to them how bad he was. I think it has something to do with a kind of reverse racism — the assumption that whites in Africa must always be morally at fault.

It didn't weigh with Mugabe's defenders that he was a hard-line Marxist, or that he was happy to use violence (they must surely have known as much), or that before the Lancaster House Agreement he had vowed to appropriate white-owned farms (as he eventually did).

It's true that after Lancaster House the British government hoped the moderate Bishop Abel Muzorewa might win subsequent elections. But when Mugabe triumphed, the Foreign Office quickly persuaded itself he was a decent chap who would play by the rules.

What a tragedy this has been. I remember how, during my first visit to what was still Rhodesia in 1978, a scientist showed me a new sort of high-yield wheat grain which had been developed there. It struck me that this was a sophisticated, rather civilised country.

It's no longer at all civilised or remotely sophisticated. Zimbabwe has been virtually destroyed by a revolution in which only the elite — as is invariably the case — has prospered. What has happened was entirely foreseeable.

Shouldn't those who rooted for Mugabe 30 and 40 years ago examine their consciences? Most of them would never want such a man ruling their own country. Why was he ever considered fit to rule Zimbabwe?

If only this beautiful and fertile land, blessed as it is by hard-working people and ingenious entrepreneurs, could find benevolent and democratic rulers — why, then it could thrive again despite the nightmares of recent decades.

Alas, Robert Mugabe seems likely to be replaced by men just as bad as him. This is a wicked ruling cadre, which our politicians helped to create, and it's not going to vanish simply because we have decided we no longer like it.

Video by The Economist
Published on 17 Nov 2017

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NOTE: In 2008, memoirist and journalist Peter Godwin secretly returned to his native Zimbabwe after he thought its notoriously tyrannical leader, Robert Mugabe, had lost an election. The decision was severely risky--foreign journalists had been banned to prevent the world from seeing a corrupt leader's refusal to cede power. Zimbabweans have named this period, simply, THE FEAR. The book was published in 2011.

Godwin bears witness to the torture bases, the burning villages, the opposition leaders in hiding, the last white farmers, and the churchmen and diplomats putting their own lives on the line to stop the carnage. Told with a brilliant eye for detail, THE FEAR is a stunning personal account of a people laid waste by a despot and, armed with nothing but a desire to be free, their astonishing courage and resilience.

The Fear: Robert Mugabe and the Martyrdom of Zimbabwe

Friday, November 10, 2017

Enemy of the People: How Jacob Zuma stole South Africa and how the people fought back

By Adriaan Basson & Pieter Du Toit

Enemy of the People: How Jacob Zuma stole South Africa and how the people fought back

ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, by Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit, is the first definitive account of Zuma’s catastrophic misrule, offering eyewitness descriptions and cogent analysis of how South Africa was brought to its knees – and how a people fought back.

When Jacob Zuma took over the leadership of the ANC one muggy Polokwane evening in December 2007, he inherited a country where GDP was growing by more than 6% per annum, a party enjoying the support of two-thirds of the electorate, and a unified tripartite alliance. Today, South Africa is caught in the grip of a patronage network, the economy is floundering and the ANC is staring down the barrel of a defeat at the 2019 general elections.

How did we get here?
Zuma first brought to heel his party, Africa’s oldest and most revered liberation movement, subduing and isolating dissidents associated with his predecessor Thabo Mbeki. Then saw the emergence of the tenderpreneur and those attempting to capture the state, as well as a network of family, friends and business associates that has become so deeply embedded that it has, in effect, replaced many parts of government. Zuma opened up the state to industrial-scale levels of corruption, causing irreparable damage to state enterprises, institutions of democracy, and the ANC itself.

But it hasn’t all gone Zuma’s way. Former allies have peeled away. A new era of activism has arisen and outspoken civil servants have stepped forward to join a cross-section of civil society and a robust media. As a divided ANC square off for the elective conference in December, where there is everything to gain or to lose, award-winning journalists Adriaan Basson and Pieter du Toit offer a brilliant and up-to-date account of the Zuma era.

Sourced from: Jonathan Ball Publishers

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