Johannesburg – The African National Congress (ANC) on Sunday lambasted ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba for pulling “off one of the greatest acts of deception in literary history”.
This after the Sunday Times reported that the book on “Herman Mashaba written by political analyst Prince Mashele purported to be unauthorised biography was actually funded by the ActionSA leader himself, according to an agreement between the two”.
The report quotes a senior researcher as saying Mashaba paid Mashele R12.5 million to write the book
Commenting on the book, the ANC in Gauteng said it “has learned with great concern that the leader of ActionSA, Herman Mashaba, has pulled off one of the greatest acts of deception in literary history”.
Earlier this month, the book on Mashaba, The Outsider: The Unauthorised Biography of Herman Mashaba, by Prince Mashele, was released to much fanfare.
“The book purported to be an unauthorised biography when in fact, Mashaba not only paid Mashele a mind-numbing R12.5 million towards its ‘research’ but was also involved in the process of providing information to Mashele,” the ANC said in a lengthy statement issued by Gauteng Provincial Secretary Thembinkosi “TK” Nciza.
“This secret agreement that was entered into by Mashaba and Mashele is not only unethical, but it also raises some very serious legal questions.
“An unauthorised biography is a book about a person’s life written without their permission or involvement in the book.”
The ANC further explained: “This means that the subject being written about does not grant permission for the writing and publication of the book, and does not sit down for any interviews or in any way get involved in the process of data collection and analysis”.
Unauthorised biographies, even as they may not be privy to some information or corrections are known only to the subject or the subject’s close friends and family.
They are considered as more objective and thus, tend to be regarded as relatively more truthful accounts than those in which the subject participates in the shaping of the narrative.
“This is precisely what makes Mashaba’s actions more problematic,” said the ANC.
“He actively orchestrated a deception not only to the publishers of the book, but to the entire country and an electorate to whom he has presented himself as an ethical and moral person.
“Mashaba knowingly facilitated this unconscionable deception not only because he is a master of self-aggrandisement, but because he undermines the collective intelligence of South Africans, whom he has demonstrated great disdain with such an action.”
The ANC said Mashele has not only also knowingly participated in this great deception, but has exposed himself as anything but an “independent analyst” and “we daresay, a true scholar”.
The ANC added: “Over the years, Mashele has been masquerading as a credible scholar and a researcher par excellence and yet, in entering into such an unethical secret agreement with Mashaba, he broke every rule in scholarship, not least of all being that of scholarly integrity.
“Scholarly integrity would have demanded that Mashele acknowledge all his sources, including Mashaba, with whom he allegedly had many hours of interviews with during the process of writing the book.
“Scholarly integrity would have also demanded that Mashele declare any conflict of interest, which is evident since the subject of the book was also its funder.”
The ANC said Mashele did not do any of this because it would have required that both he and Mashaba admit the truth to the public, “that the book was nothing more than a self-aggrandising tool for Mashaba’s insatiable need for fame and applause”.
The governing party said scholars and those who are invested in the ideational space should come out and make a strong statement about Mashele’s conduct, for he has plunged academia itself into an ethical nightmare.
“Beyond the ethics of the book, there are also questions of epistemic injustice that must be raised,” the ANC said.
“It is reported that Mashele hired a former employee of the City of Johannesburg, Brutus Malada, who is a senior researcher and consultant, to aid with the research component of the book, and yet, nowhere in the book is Malada acknowledged despite his contribution, for which he was paid R3.2 million from the budget that Mashaba funded.
“This is not only unethical, but it is injustice that has historically been done to Black people, whose intellectual labour is never acknowledged.”
The ANC said Mashele has resorted to “bully tactics” of unleashing lawyers on Malada, a man whose only crime was to blow the whistle on “the greatest literary deception of our time”.
Ironically, The Outsider was launched on 9 May 2023 at the Donald Gordon Auditorium, Wits School of Governance, in Johannesburg. The institution’s stated mission is advancing “inclusive, transformative and ethical governance”.
“The letter from Mashele’s lawyers to Malada, demanding a retraction and apology for what they know is a factual account of the book, is nothing more than an intimidation tactic from Mashele and Mashaba, who are both desperate to see this story disappear from public memory,” the ANC said.
“As the ANC in Gauteng, we call on Mashaba to come clean about how his “unauthorised biography” came into existence.
“We also call on Jonathan Ball Publishers to withdraw the book from the shelves and subject it to the necessary corrections.”