22/12/2016 14:20 SAST | Updated 22/12/2016 16:29 SAST

Why True Love's Silence On The Zahara Cover Is A Problem

The magazine will not issue a statement or apology, saying it "stands by" the cover and story.

Ihsaan Haffejee / Reuters


Musician Zahara has spoken out on her social media channels about a cover line on True Love magazine's January 2017 issue that implied she uses drugs. Dudu Leshabane, the magazine's editor, has said that the team will not be issuing a statement or apology in response to Zahara's outrage — saying they stand by the cover line and the story. But it is not the first time that the singer, who shot to fame in 2011 with her hit song "Loliwe", has had to correct the way she is portrayed in the media.

In 2013, her record deal with TS Records was questioned with allegations published in the Sunday World newspaper that she was not being paid by them and that she was working as a domestic worker for TS Records' owner TK Nciza. She issued a statement on Twitter at the time, apologising to her family and friends for the false news about her and the anxiety it caused them.

Two years later the Sunday Sun claimed that her partner, Umhlobo Wenene FM DJ Amaza, had left her because she drinks too much - a claim she publicly denied. Just months later, rumours swirled that the couple was engaged and that Zahara was pregnant. Yet again Zahara publicly dismissed them as false.

At the time of the allegations of her drug and alcohol use, Zahara posted a message to Facebook, saying: "They can put as many lies into my name, label me the worst way they can, but they can't put me down. Ya'll wondering about the Drum [magazine] article for which I think you my super fans deserve an explanation. Don't believe everything you read!" She also said that her drinking was brought on by grief following her brother's death in 2012.

Earlier this year, Zahara's lobola made headlines, with Drum magazine speculating that Amaza did not have the money to pay it. She clapped back, speaking to TshisaLIVE, and stating quite plainly that her love life is private, but going on to explain what had happened at the private ceremony to put paid to the rumours.

Now she faces True Love Magazine, saying that if the magazine does not retract the cover, she will pursue legal action against it. (Attempts by the Huffington Post South Africa to contact Zahara have been unsuccessful.)

When asked about the incident, Leshabane said that True Love will not be issuing an apology because Zahara had spoken about drugs in the story and they do not believe the cover line to imply drug use.

A photograph of an excerpt of the feature was posted on Twitter and it appears that when Zahara spoke about drugs it was to say that she doesn't use them. "I've never been on drugs," she was quoted saying in the story.

Leshabane says she she stands by the story and won't comment further on the matter as she needs to protect her brand. But True Love's silence has served only to feed the Zahara rumour mill and perpetuate false perceptions about her. In a clickbait culture, misleading headlines and cover lines reinforce existing narratives about people in the public eye.

Zahara's reputation has been tarnished many times and at every turn, she has firmly denied the salacious rumours about her. Yet media outlets seem to rely on perceptions of her as a troubled star to sell their newspapers and magazines and to draw clicks online. Each time she is forced to break her silence and set the record straight.

It seems that this time she has been pushed too far, and is no longer simply content with setting records straight; now she's threatening legal action.