POLITICS

I Believe The ANC When It Says It Didn't Sanction 'War Room' Campaign, Says Veteran Spin Doctor Chris Vick

' I don't think the ANC would be that silly to be involved in a covert operation like that,' says Vick.

25/01/2017 20:54 SAST | Updated 25/01/2017 21:18 SAST
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Chris Vick

The so-called "War room" or "black ops" media unit allegedly commissioned by the ANC to discredit opposition parties does not fit the party's election campaign modus operandi, says veteran spin doctor Chris Vick.

"It really felt very amateurish that they didn't understand what they were going to do and how they were going to do it," Vick told News24 on Wednesday.

Vick, who was the spokesperson for the former minister of human settlements Tokyo Sexwale, has more than 30 years' experience in communications.

This includes the time he spent in an underground ANC propaganda unit, anti-apartheid media activism and mainstream and alternative journalism.

He has served three terms in the public service as a government spokesperson and a ministerial advisor.

Earlier Vick tweeted that he had been approached by "someone" to participate in what he now believes to have been a covert operation aimed at increasing a positive narrative around the ANC while trying to destabilise opposition parties' campaigns.

"I got a WhatsApp from someone that I had been identified as someone who could assist as a promoter for the ANC election campaign, said the media strategist.

R50 campaign

The allegations of a R50m smear campaign plan surfaced in an affidavit by businesswoman Sihle Bolani.

Her urgent court application was exposed in a story by an AmaBhungane investigation published on News24 on Tuesday. She launched an application against the ANC in order to recoup R2.2 million, which she said she was promised for her role in the project.

The ANC has denied any involvement in the matter and spokesperson Zizi Kodwa said the party had only one company contracted for its election campaign and it was not Bolani's company.

"I believe Zizi Kodwa when he says it wasn't sanctioned by the ANC. I don't think the ANC would be that silly to be involved in a covert operation like that," said Vick.

The former ANC member, who assisted the party with its communication strategy ahead of the 2014 elections, told News24 that the ANC relied on volunteers.

Sisulu troubled by allegations

"At that workshop, I was asked to present a communication strategy which I developed free of charge and I think that is very much how the ANC approaches this kind of thing," said Vick.

The spin doctor said he felt the "War Room" was a side project. "It really doesn't sound like it was formally channelled from the ANC," he said.

Vick said it sounded more like a deal between people who were possibly working with external funders and even business people to run the project.

Shaka Sisulu, the grandson of political icon Walter Sisulu, who was placed at the centre of the covert operation has since released a statement.

Sisulu said he was troubled by the allegations.

"It saddens me that this case is being used to tarnish my family name, my reputation, and the work that I do for the ANC," said the activist.

News24