The BBC’s standards of journalism when it comes to South Africa


Yes, the BBC sent the snooty John Simpson to South Africa to do a bit of parachute journalism and be led around by the white “rights” group Afriforum (since when are they are a credible source?) to come up with this insulting question: “Do white people have a future in South Africa?” Read it here. The main claims of the piece (and a documentary broadcast in the UK on Sunday night) are that the white poor number about 400,000 (that would be about 10% of the white population), that there are 80 “white squatter camps” situated around the capital Pretoria, and that there’s a deliberate attempt on the part of the new government to neglect whites. These reports usually add attacks on white farmers into the mix as if there are direct links between these phenomena. And the BBC did that too. It’s a mashup of all the nonsense Afriforum (and its allies like Solidarity) peddles to whichever local or foreign journalists care to listen. In most of these articles and “documentaries” white poverty is exaggerated and treated as unnatural. All of this is, of course, propaganda and fits in well with the attempts at inventing history or the new victim discourse among white South Africans lapped up by foreign media. We were discussing writing a lengthy post pointing out how reports about white poverty in South Africa seem to all use the same photographs, visit the same “white squatter camp” over and over again, and pretend or imply that all black people are now middle class (the real scandal in South Africa is of course black poverty), among others, but then we remembered there is enough evidence out there the BBC could have consulted.

Like the fact that white South Africans are doing just as well–actually way better than expected–since the end of Apartheid (the most recent study to confirm this comes from the South African Institute of Race Relations, an institute not known for its support either for the liberation struggle or their love for the current ruling party) and CEOs and managers are still majority white. As for conditions on farms, read this. Finally, there’s the the article by Africa Check, a South African website doing just that: fact checking. They systematically refute the falsehoods of the BBC report and concluded: “The claim that 400,000 whites are living in squatter camps is grossly inaccurate. If that were the case, it would mean that roughly ten percent of South Africa’s 4.59-million whites were living in abject poverty. Census figures suggest that only a tiny fraction of the white population – as little as 7,754 households – are affected.”

The spectacle of Ernst Roets, an Afriforum leader, and a representative from one of Afriforum’s partners, Solidarity, suddenly claiming they can’t say where those statistics originate, is also something to behold. Word is Roets is drafting a reply made up of more made up statistics.

There’s a certain amount of irony at play here also that Africa Check needed to be prompted by a BBC report to refute the stats that Afriforum, Afrikaner Genocide and other white apocalypse organizations have been poisoning the public debate with for a good ten years now.

But back to the BBC, which generally serves up contextual and well-researched reporting on South Africa: They do slip up occasionally when it comes to that country. Just recently the BBC presented FW de Klerk, the last white leader of South Africa, who as recently as last year still defended the moral basis for Apartheid, as an “analyst” of postapartheid South Africa. (And after watching it, I am still trying to figure out whether Peter Hain’s recent “documentary” film is really about the people of Marikana–as it is marketed–or about Peter Hain?)

It seems unlikely the BBC will apologize over this and we doubt it will be pressured by its viewers and readers judging by the online comments on the story or how the story was circulated on the web (sites like Huffington Post republished it without any critical commentary) or shared as truth on Twitter and Facebook.

* BTW, the BBC is not the only “global news” operator that draws on Afriforum and its alliance-partners for research or analysis. At the outset of the Marikana mine massacre in August last year where police murdered 34 miners in cold blood, Al Jazeera turned to Solidarity for comment and analysis.

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30 thoughts on “The BBC’s standards of journalism when it comes to South Africa

  1. Welcome to our post-apartheid world downhere in SA. We live this kind of bias all the time, with Afriforum leading the charge, but its pretty widespread. I would really like someone to do a doccie on what whites-or rather the white establishment–has done to contribute to reconciliation and transformation in SA. The feeling I get on talk shows from black South Africans is that the effort has all been one sided…and the anger about untouched white privilege over 20 years is mounting all the time. Having lived in Zim, this is all deja vu…. people don’t learn.

    • So Seeking Wisdom, what are doing in South Africa? Why did you not stay in Zim to contribute to the transformation there?
      Just asking.

  2. I read the article as it was published, and it didn’t come across as racist and pro-white at all. It did say that level of poverty among blacks was higher, but it is also growing for the whites. Shouldn’t it be decreasing in both groups? The crime level is high in the country overall, but there is also targeted crime against white farmers. So, the whites are the ones that experience the change to the worse. It does not imply that the author or the white population in general do not sympathise the overall poorer black South Africans.
    Growing poverty and targeted crime are sufficient factors for people to migrate, and therefore the original question – “Do white people have a future in South Africa?” – seems to be legitimate. I hope though that all people in South Africa have a future!

    • Not very familiar with the situation in SA (I read this blog largely to educate myself), but honestly the BBC piece reminds me too much of some of the shit I have seen from so-called men’s rights groups. By presenting a piece focusing exclusively on white’s in SA, the BBC is presenting white problems in SA as something matter, which the problems of black south africans, while being acknowledged, don’t rate equal time. A truly balanced piece would have examined the entire situation in the country, and how poverty affects everyone. It might have gone from their to discuss possible long term impacts on various groups, including the factors that might drive white people out of SA (per your comment) AND how black South African’s might respond to or be affected by the problems.

      That’s doesn’t mean that that may not be a backlash in SA against whites, or that whites may not be experiencing actual prejudice. However I tend to be very suspicious when a long dominant group is finally forced to share equally with others and immediately starts being presented as the victim. Think of a rich man in a mansion surrounded by poor people in shacks. If the rich man loses his fortune and ends up in a shack with his neighbors, he will (possibly with reason) feel like he is being treated unjustly, like his life is far harsher than it was, and that the hardships of his new life are unfair. His neighbors, who have been living like this for years, aren’t going to have a lick of sympathy, as far as they are concerned, he’s finally seeing what real life is like. So “OMG, whites in SA have it nearly as hard as blacks! Do whites even have a future here?” is how that article reads to me. a few references to ‘blacks have it bad too” don’t change that overall BIASED focus on white people and their suffering.

      • I am in complete agreement with your post. The article was completely biased. The BBC and other news outlets should have done way better on this. The problem is also that the biased message are getting out there to the world. Few people seek and analyse information to come to an objective viewpoint for themselves. They believe news that’s being fed to them, and if most dont have any knowledge or experience about SA, they will tend to belief people such as Samson. All poverty should be seen as unjust, not just that of white South Africans, especially when most people of colour still suffer such conditions.

  3. Fact: No future for whites in government agencies or large companies due to no chance of career advancement on merit due to a law that protects the majority from the minority.
    Fact: No future for anyone in South Africa due to rampant lawlessness, incompetent and corrupt policing, incompetent and corrupt civil service, incompetent and corrupt politicians,
    incompetent and corrupt government lead by an incompetent and corrupt president, low food supply due to willy-nilly land reform which is unsustainable, the culture of entitlement resulting in zero motivation, practically non-existent health care system and education system, lack of prioritising the spend of tax money, …………….
    I won’t bother to carry on quantifying the statement.
    There is only one hope for this country and that is the “born frees” coming through the ranks, educated and motivated and not stupid enough to believe the ANC rhetoric. This country will become just like Zim where the ruling party has to mobilise the rural communities in order to remain in power which will entail land grabs which will result in war. White farmers in South Africa will not run like the Zimbos did, they will fight as they did the English, they have no place to go.
    Some people never learn ………

    • It seems easy to say…kick all the whites out, but most whites in South Africa come a long way. My family arrived in 1661 in South Africa (Van der Merwe) and never returned to Europe. It is impossible for them to return to the Netherlands (the country of orgin for the Van der Merwe family) Will all the whites in the USA leave? They were not there in in1661..or in Australia? I am sure more whites will leave S:A. if Europe open it´s doors. It is close to IMPOSSIBLE to enter Europe. It is so easy to say leave, but they cannot. Some people make quick very uneducated remarks. The few whites left in South Africa know they are standing alone and they can only hope on understanding from the rest of the world. Then I wish to ask you when did slavery stop in South Africa? Go and check your facts. You will be surprized.

    • SA originally belonged to the Bushmen, it was then colonised by whites and blacks. More and more blacks flocked to SA when they saw how whites were developing the country. They lived parallel to each other. The apartheid system was one of separate development where blacks were allowed to rule themselves. While this was happening, whites gave blacks hospitals and schools and international standard universities like Medunsa, using white tax money, which blacks never had before. That is not wrong. The wrong thing was the Land Act which gave most of the land to whites. That was unfair. The problem was that the white areas became very well developed due to white people’s entrepeneurship and skills, while the blacks were not able to develop their homelands, so they became jealous and wanted to be part of the white system. Blacks chose to work as labourers for whites, nobody forced them.

      Whites never wanted to live in black peoples communities when they arrived in SA. But blacks always wanted to be part of white communities because whites developed areas and were able to provide jobs.

  4. αNaturist and egteSafrican did you read the embedded links in Sean Jacobs piece? I’m just wondering if verifiable data from documented sources is not good enough for you both? Or should your own bias and hubris be given more weight in this argument? Unless you can back up your claims, I suggest you take a moment to think before you embarrass yourself on this blog.

    αNaturist as you claim “I read the article as it was published, and it didn’t come across as racist and pro-white at all. It did say that level of poverty among blacks was higher, but it is also growing for the whites.” Sean Jacobs kindly provided source that disqualifies your statement here:
    “With increasing levels of education, high levels of entrepreneurship, and low levels of unemployment, it must follow that white poverty levels are low. South Africa has no official poverty line.We therefore take a monthly household-income level of less than R5 000 as a benchmark of relative poverty. Using this benchmark, the proportion of white South Africans living in poverty declined from approximately 2% in 1994 to less than 1% in 2012.” http://www.citypress.co.za/columnists/whither-the-whites/

    αNaturist countless people suffer crime, especially murder and rape, in South Africa. By far the most affected groupings numerically and per capita are Black and Coloured communities. Is crime against white privileged over others? or as Sean asks, is it unnatural?

    White poverty and crime against white people shouldn’t be ignored, ignored like poverty and crime for black South Africans was in John Simpson’s report, but it should be put into context and based on fact. This is passively racist and belittling to other non-white South Africans. What is implied is that Whites are under siege against the savage African hordes, it is asinine and intellectually corrupt for you and egteSafrican to still bang the drum of ignorant and invented South African reality.

    egteSafrican are you for real or did you write the script for In Bruges? http://symftr.tumblr.com/post/10550982556/jimmy-theres-gonna-be-a-war-between-the
    Everything you have written is based on what? Not reality, that is for sure. Spend more time researching (credible and objective sources please), instead of listening to paranoid Braai gossip and racism.

    Just in case you both need an academic dissection of the reality of South African socio-economic and socio-political conditions pre/post apartheid, please listen to the following lecture, it might may challenge your perception and better inform your views about South Africa.

    http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk/people/jesmond-blumenfeld

  5. Reblogged this on Africonvoluted and commented:
    Read the article first, then read this critique of it. Such a strange conversation to be having at all. But it’s interesting. And it directly affects me, I mean, if white people don’t have a future in South Africa, I should take my business elsewhere.

      • No, I don’t. I wasn’t quite sure where to start in reacting to the article. It was a sarcastic comment, though, saying that I should go somewhere else.
        I think white South Africans are just as South African as anyone else, and to say they don’t have a future in their own country is ridiculous. Some white SAers are being dragged down by poverty. I think that’s a social problem, not a race problem.

  6. Really interesting point- but I can’t help but think that reverse racism is an issue. At least the perception of reverse racism. While it is hard to sympathize for a white person finally understanding the rampant poverty that the majority of the population were subjected to, being smug about it doesn’t make the country a safer or better place for anyone. I also wonder about the disproportionately wealthy white citizens, who perceiving themselves as victims of white racism, chose to leave the country. I work in business migration and I know there are a lot of other countries that court wealthy/educated people- people that underdeveloped countries can’t afford to lose.

  7. I really like all the debate around the matter..you cannot really shy away from the fact that the title alone calls for some attention considering they are not really saying anything new. Also, that people are victims of history…which under the premise of it ‘repeating itself’ creates a gap for all sorts of problems.

  8. oh and also..the word ‘journalism’ and the ‘BBC’ all in the same sentence is another very shaky matter..over the years the standard of the work they produce has significantly dropped..though that is obviously my personal opinion..

  9. I am pleased that white people are suffering in South Africa.I hope this wakes up all white people as to their legacy of racism and hatred which in the reverse can be very potent.Despite this John Simpson report for the BBC.White people are still in the economic ascendancy in South Africa.Amazingly few white people the world over talks about the continued suffering of Africans in Africa.
    What white people have done by going into occupy African lands is a crime punishable by extermination.They murdered our brothers in the millions and now a few hungry white people are of such great significance to them? What a shame on the BBC and John Simpson but then again the white world still thinks been white is right and been Black is evil.
    We Africans (and this does not include any other ethnic group of people born in Africa) must begin a policy of economic and social reorganization,buy Black, be Black,live among our own people and build bridges rather than burn them.Sadly the impact of white domination over the centuries in all African lands is so significant that most African Descendants have lost connection to the realities of a necessitated revitalization of things African i.e spiritually, socially,economically and politically.To this day white people produces pictures to show our forefathers as buffoons,men and women in the jungle,a people who can do nothing good except we be trained by the white man as his dogs and servants.
    What white people have done to South Africa and Zimbabwe as well as Namibia, the Congo and every part of our Mother Land,must never be forgiven.From the British,Belgians,French to the Americans.They have taken advantage of Black innocence,love and comradely which let them into our lands and then to be enslaved,treated as dogs on a leach,raped and broken on the Rab rack.
    When we express these hurts,white people calls us all kinds of names but I am one man who will never forgive white people for what they have done to my Mother land for centuries and for which these pigs have no remorse nor empathy instead they go to our continent in their quest to recolonize so as to repossess our wealth for the continued sustenance of their dying lands.
    To say the least,we must never forget that all the white man has is his paper money and plastic cards,take these away and they are nothing.This is why they do not want a nuclear Iran nor could they tolerate a Gaddafi led Libya with this power of deterrence.
    How many Africans realize that we are the only people who do not possess nuclear arms? Does this not tell something about us as a people?The destructive element,white people are still living in the mind set that today’s Africa is yesterdays white paradise.
    In the same way that they treat our people in Germany and all of Europe so must we treat these white bastards who are up to no good in Africa.Until the colonialists repay us the debt via reparation,we must never cooperate with them in any form.
    After tonight the FBI,CIA,MI5 and the Zionists will be looking at this and every other mail to which I reply but for me.To hell with them.I am not a Muslim fanatic and I do not wish to visit their lands so who cares.After all Obama,the Black man in white skin has no reason to send in his drone to kill me as is the practice today,a modification of American evil practiced for decades by the FBI and CIA against Black organizations in America and the world over.They thought they could kill all of us with the AIDS virus that Bot ha took to South Africa from American laboratories but they got caught with their own evil and are dying like us.What a shame white people!
    We Africans must do unto white people what they have done to our ancestors for centuries.It is pay back time and they must not cry for the vicissitudes of the fathers shall be visited unto the third and fourth generation;so is itr written in the white man’s bible.

    • Heil Malek, our new Führer!
      What an ignorant, racist, and bile filled rant that was. Crawl back inside the cave you just came out of.

      • I don’t have to ask if you are white,your reply days it all.You know your history which is app x 7000 yrs old suggest that white people were in the caves but for us Africans we mostly emerged from a rich history that’s why we taught you all what life is and how to clean your selves and houses.Go back in time and you will see who is the caveman.See who is the racist because my history not written by white people taught me what is important about myself so it matters not is whites see me as a racist,in fact I welcome the label,it helps me to keep in my zone without a desire for anything from you folks,you perpetual racists who use the bible to brain wash Africans into forgiving and forgetting all the atrocities committed by white people against Africans.
        I know my place and is proud of the fact that I can dismiss the existence of you white people because every place you step on becomes cursed with your evil systems all based upon money and greed.You people do not care who you have to eliminate to get your wealth,who you have to lie on even if it is George Bush of America lying about Saddam Husein’s weapons of mass destruction.Even if it is the Queen of England supporting Apartheid and with another face saying it must end.
        You call me the new Fuhrer;yes actually I admire Adolph Hitler and wish he had done more,conquered more because the world would be marked indelibly black and white and not be subtly accepted as a global village in which all people are one.
        You call me a racist;well,well.Who are you.Have you black African children?Did you stand up against apartheid? How many Africans did you save?Talk back to me.Tell me who you are you hypocrite and then you and other whites can condemn me for who I am.Today it takes people like myself to stop the white march to prosperity at the expense of Africans so if a handful of you are impoverished so what? Go to Soweto and all the townships into which your white ancestors relegated our people and from which the ANC Government is still unable to bring economic and social transformation.
        Assess their status,see the misery and crime in there and then come back to me you fool.

    • That is in the old testament. In the new testament Jesus preached forgiveness. Jesus said w are to forgive 7x70times i.e. every time. The bible also says that judgement is up to God and we must not take judgement into our own hands.

  10. The hell were these poor whites doing apartheid? Talk about people misusing opportunities! They are not even that poor relative to poor blacks, look at them! They have trailers, only things with wheels poor black people have are those carts they push all day looking for boxes to serve as blankets on cold nights. Psst! 7000 people out of a white population of 4m in a country with 50m inhabitants where 20m people live in poverty? White South Africans are probably one of the most prosperous groups of people in the world, if they think they can have it better anywhere else in the world they are welcome to go try, I guarantee they’ll be disappointed!

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