There it was, the "but" at the end of the ANC’s statement. The sentence read: "The ANC supports the freedom of the press but believes that such freedom should be exercised with care and responsibility." What the party was calling for — and has been demanding for decades — is that the media allow it to perform its internal machinations without public scrutiny. The country’s free and independent media have refused to play this game, and the party has become annoyed, at times threatening tribunals and security-related clampdowns, which have come to nothing because the constitution stands in their way.

And so, when the Sunday Times reported on a gathering at a Durban hotel of party secretary-general Ace Magashule, deposed North West premier Supra Mahumapelo and ousted president Jacob Zuma, among others, it chose to attack the media. Denying that the meeting had taken place at all must have been tempting, but this had become impossible due to the publication of a photograph of the ...

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