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Media's double standards to Motlanthe love life

By unknown | Feb 09, 2009 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

In a way yesterday's report in the Sunday Independent that the woman who had claimed to be expecting Kgalema Motlanthe made up the whole thing, might appear to make this column outdated.

In a way yesterday's report in the Sunday Independent that the woman who had claimed to be expecting Kgalema Motlanthe made up the whole thing, might appear to make this column outdated.

Be that as it may, after stories of Motlanthe's love life and domestic arrangements, South Africa has lost its innocence. Public figures will now think harder and more carefully about whether they can take the glare that comes with high or strategic office.

But there are still issues arising from the reports and the analysis that still need to be raised.

I am rather concerned with the subtext of the stories that have underpinned the discourse. There again is the stereotype that black-African women are Aids carriers who should be treated with extreme care. And black-African men are philanderers who cannot control their sexual urges.

Why else would the same media that are making moral judgments on Motlanthe not have applied the same standards to Finance Minister Trevor Manuel who after being estranged from his wife had a public relationship with Maria Ramos, even before he was divorced?

While being estranged was a legitimate enough reason for Manuel to continue with his life, Motlanthe is supposed to be a "filthy old man" if, despite being in the same set of circumstances as Manuel, he finds love elsewhere.

Flashback: Government announced as early as 2001 that Manuel and his wife Lynne Matthews were separated. But the divorce only went through in late 2007. There were correctly no stories about Manuel "cheating" on his wife on the basis of the marriage being legally valid.

Media academics, journalists and the public have gone on about Motlanthe having "multiple concurrent partners" and decided to pass moral judgment on "his character and values, and therefore his leadership" based on their prejudice and cultural chauvinism.

To this school of thought, it is of little consequence that the Motlanthes are just like the Manuels before their divorce, married only in so far as the Home Affairs records show.

Accepting that one does not know if there is indeed truth to the allegations that have been made by the 24-year-old woman at the centre of these discussions, but supposing Motlanthe had indeed impregnated her, why should there be a basic assumption that the pregnancy is a result of carelessness on his part. Or hers?

Why is it beyond the realms of possibility that Motlanthe and her partner - whoever that might be - would want to have a child and therefore intentionally had the kind of a sexual relationship that would result in one being conceived?

One journalism professor castigated the Sowetan for "going into the [Motlanthe] bedroom" but had no qualms accepting the truth of a report that implies that he is sleeping with two women while legally married to the third.

He could not or would not see the irony of thinking that it is acceptable for another newspaper to not only go to his bedroom, but tell us who else is there and what they do. Regardless of what the truth is, it is essential to debunk the myth that has underpinned the Motlanthe love life discourse.

Among the first would be to stop the presumption that black people are quite incapable of planning when or with whom they will have children. Secondly, not all of us are HIV-positive and it is possible that we might make rational decisions about what kind of sex life we will have.


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