Investigative reporters at amaBhungane have revealed insider information relating to an alleged R50 million smear campaign the ANC tried – and failed – to run in the lead up to the 2016 municipal elections.
The information was released as part of a court bid by one of the people involved in the alleged campaign, detailing how the ANC hired a covert team to operate in what it called “The War Room”, which was specifically tasked with discrediting opposition parties, and pushing pro-ANC propaganda.
The specific requirements were that the War Room would have no links to Luthuli House, and would establish a publication (The New South African) and talk shows featuring stories of ANC successes, while using so-called ‘influencers’ online to shift public discourse, amaBhunagane reported.
The campaign also reportedly involved producing fake posters to mimic opposition parties’ campaigns to “disempower” them.
The revelations come from a case that was brought against the ANC by public relations expert Sihle Bolani, who claims she is owed R2.2 million for work done as part of the campaign.
According to various correspondence seen by amaBhungane – provided as evidence in the court application as well as by Bolani herself – the War Room was supposed to raise R50 million from various sources to do its job.
However, promised money never materialised or was spent elsewhere (like on t-shirts) and invoices for work done were left unpaid.
Bolani’s court bid claims that the ANC had agreed to pay her R100,000 a month to settle the debt, but she turned it down. When approached for comment, the party told amaBhungane that no such “War Room” ever existed.
The investigative group said this response was contradicted, as it had seen correspondence between the ANC and the PR team at Ogilvy & Mather (the company who helped the ANC with its public relations during the 2016 elections) making specific mention of the War Room, and the party’s involvement.
You can read the full detailed report at amaBhungane.