28th February 2024 3:54 am
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How To Steal A Country shows South Africa how much the truth costs

The Gupta family is a household name in South Africa for all the wrong reasons.

Investigations into state capture which allegedly involved the Gupta family are ongoing but over the years South Africans have seen just how deep the corruption was sown.

This is largely thanks to journalists who – at great risks to themselves – chose to do the right thing and expose corruption within the government.

At times it was a thankless job fraught with danger and misinformation being fed by the corrupt.

On Thursday 23rd April the locally produced documentary, How To Steal A Country, will be released on Showmax and Hypertext was granted a preview of the doccie ahead of its release.

The documentary was directed by Rehad Desai while Mark Kaplan acted as co-director and tells the story of the investigative journalists who uncovered the corrupt and tugged on that thread until it was fully exposed.

The documentary kicks off by painting a picture of who the three Gupta brothers are, what they came to South Africa to do and how they ultimately started putting government officials in their back pocket.

Throughout the documentary we are given a behind the scenes look at how the story unfolded.

The doccie features interviews from multiple journalists but the main talking heads are Thanduxolo Jika, Richard Poplak, Susan Comrie and Ferial Haffajee.

Together these journalists paint the picture of how they worked to expose the corruption and the backlash they faced from government and the public.

What becomes clear throughout the doccie is that while some laughed off allegations, the journalists never underestimated what the Guptas and the government officials were capable of.

There is focus on ANN7, The New Age, Oakbay Investments and the Estina Dairy Farm which have all since been found to have been tainted by the corruption sowed by the Gupta family.

While at times we found ourselves laughing at things like the disastrous state of ANN7 at launch, the documentary does an excellent job of hammering home how toxic these platforms became.

The documentary includes things like tweets, sound bites from radio stations, clips from social media and more to tell the story from a variety of perspectives. We loved this because it showcases just how valuable social media has become in news reporting.

Our sole criticism of How To Steal A Country is that the graphics used could have done with a bit more fine-tuning but that’s a really small criticism of what is otherwise a superb piece.

The final third of the documentary looks at the ongoing inquiry into State Capture. The editing here is rather well done and sums up the story so far to great effect.

Perhaps the most important thing about How To Steal A Country, however, is the importance of investigative journalism in South Africa.

Without the work of Thanduxolo Jika, Richard Poplak, Susan Comrie, Ferial Haffajee and many others who reported the corruption and malfeasance at a government level, we may be worse off than before.

Not a day goes by where the media isn’t attacked in some form or another and a cry of fake news is heard throughout social media.

That’s not to say that those cries aren’t unfounded but rather that we as consumers of news need to be aware of where those cries are coming from. As we saw multiple times in the doccie, government cried foul, only for the facts to show that they were in fact suspicious.

We highly recommend giving How To Steal A Country an hour and a half of your time when it hits Showmax on Thursday, 23rd April.

You can sign up for a Showmax account here, and if you don’t have one yet, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the content that is available.

Instead of a score we’re giving How To Steal A Country an enthusiastic thumbs up. Well done to Uhuru Productions for this excellent film, we look forward to much more from this excellent production house.

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