South African media’s litmus test: The case of Rwanda

Rwanda’s capital Kigali is expanding rapidly and is bringing in more business tourism.

Rwanda’s capital Kigali is expanding rapidly and is bringing in more business tourism.

Published Oct 17, 2023


By Kelvin Jakachira

South African media can be disappointing.

Very disappointing.

You would think that after the sacrifices made by Struggle icons such as Nelson Mandela and Chris Hani, and media heroes Percy Qoboza, Aggrey Klaaste and the Drum legends of the 50s like Can Themba, Henry Nxumalo and Nat Nakasa, today’s journalists and editors would wear tenets of journalism such as fairness, balance and truth on their sleeves.

They don’t.

Some South African media continue to protect the narrow interests of their white masters. They don’t care for truth, fairness and balance, especially when covering other African countries.

And even when it is pointed out to them that their coverage fails to meet required journalistic standards, they simply don’t care.

Take the case of Daily Maverick, for example, who two months ago, published a one sided article by Rwandan opposition leader Victoire Ingabire, which portrayed Rwanda and its leadership in bad light.

Even if you were not a journalist, you would have seen that the biased article shouldn’t have seen the light of day, not only because it was one-sided but it was motivated by the desire to smear Rwanda and its leadership.

But Rwanda is fair game, right? Why should they care about truth, fairness and balance? It’s just Paul Kagame’s Rwanda, nobody gives a damn.


I approached Daily Maverick and informed them that Ingabire’s article needed to be responded to.

And guess what? Even when provided with evidence of her links to shadowy Genocide characters and other forces bent on destabilising Rwanda - which they requested - Daily Maverick refused to publish a rejoinder I wrote and sent to them many weeks ago.

No explanation was given.

I have laid a complaint with the SA Press Ombudsman.

Ingabire, a Rwandan opposition voice, shared her concerns regarding the challenges faced by Rwandan youth – highlighting issues such as limited job opportunities for young people in Rwanda, financial struggles and a skewed perception of success being linked to connections rather than hard work.

Her perspective, while without merit, requires closer examination. More importantly, her article brings to light a broader discussion about media responsibility and due diligence in reporting.

Learning from past scandals

Many of us still remember the journalistic misstep that shook South Africa in 2014, when the Sunday Times published articles alleging a covert "rogue unit" within the South African Revenue Service (SARS) engaged in illegal surveillance and other questionable activities. Subsequent investigations later revealed glaring inaccuracies and a lack of credible evidence, the incident underscored the critical importance of thorough fact-checking and ethical reporting in the country.

But the SA media seems to not learn from this experience, especially when reporting about foreign countries. As someone who considers himself to be acquainted with Rwandan governance, politics and economic development, Ingabire’s claims struck me as potentially disingenuous. And to understand this, it's crucial to evaluate the accuracy and credibility of her perspective.

A controversial character

A closer look into Ingabire’s background reveals a complex character far from the oppressed ‘freedom fighter’ presented by the Daily Maverick.

The Rassemblement pour le retour des réfugiés et de la démocratie au Rwanda (RDR), the party she joined in 1997 before becoming president in 2000, has clear links to the former Genocidal Government in Rwanda. Her husband, Lin Muyizere, saw the immigration service in the Netherlands revoke his citizenship in 2014 after his role in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi was revealed. All while two of her close allies, Augustin Bizimungu, a co-founder of the RDR party, and Joseph Ntwangundi, vice-president of Ingabire's current FDU-Inkingi party, are respectively serving a 30-year sentence and 17-year sentence for genocide and crimes against humanity.

Her connections with the FDLR, a genocidal armed group wreaking havoc in Eastern DRC and seeking to destabilise Rwanda, have already been highlighted in 2009 by a report from the UN Group of Experts on DR Congo. Documents produced during her 2010 trial, some of which were seized from her home by the Dutch judicial authorities, confirm her involvement in an attempt to create an armed group.

All this, including recruiting young individuals into militias to fight for her cause, raises concerns about her purported commitment to constructive youth engagement. Why on Earth would a South African media outlet uncritically give her a platform?

In Search for a Balanced Perspective

In contrast to Ingabire's narrative, Rwanda's journey presents a different story, however complex and imperfect. While no nation is without challenges, Rwanda's achievements are not merely numbers on a page. They represent tangible transformations in people's lives, including lifting millions out of extreme poverty, achieving near-universal primary school enrolment, ensuring that almost all its citizens have access to medical insurance and significantly increasing life expectancy.

There is no doubt that Rwanda, has, against all expectations, defied all odds to become a model country loved by all progressive global citizens. Such breathtaking development can only be achieved through a progressive, transparent and people driven leadership.

Ingabire's case emphasises the critical role of media in presenting well-researched and balanced narratives. The responsibility to thoroughly investigate and evaluate the backgrounds and motivations of individuals contributing to public discourse rests with both writers and publishers. This piece serves as a reminder that due diligence is an essential component of ethical journalism, especially when dealing with controversial figures.

The media's role in shaping public perception cannot be underestimated, particularly in regions like Southern Africa, where challenges are manifold. In order to foster a more informed society, media outlets should strive for accuracy, objectivity, and a commitment to presenting the multifaceted truth. Holding ourselves to these standards can contribute to a more informed public discourse that promotes positive change and accountability in southern Africa and beyond.

* Kelvin Jakachira is a veteran journalist and editor based in Harare with a deep interest in exploring multifaceted stories like that of Rwanda and other African countries. He writes in his personal capacity.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.