In a press statement on Friday, The DA’s Phumzile Van Damme said that ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa had abused his status as South African president to broadcast a party political message to the nation.
They plan to lodge a complaint about it with the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa.
In a late-night broadcast on Tuesday night, Ramaphosa gave feedback on the ANC’s two-day legkotla in Gauteng, at which they had decided to ramp up efforts to change the constitution to allow expropriation without compensation.
Ramaphosa had also shared other ANC-centric messages that critics interpreted as being campaign messages for next year’s elections.
It was a departure from the norm for the public broadcaster to allow such a message that was not from government, per se. Other news broadcasters, including private commercial 24-hour news channel eNCA, also carried Ramaphosa’s “message to the nation”.
His announcement about expropriation caused the rand’s value to dip as investor fears increased.
“The DA will today report the SABC to the BCCSA for violating its Code of Conduct, to which the SABC is signatory, for its broadcast of Cyril Ramaphosa’s speech as ANC president.”
The DA said that if the leader of the ANC could have such direct access to speak to South Africa about ANC messages, then they wanted their leader, Mmusi Maimane, to be given the same platform and access for a right of reply as the leader of the official opposition.
On Wednesday, the DA said they wrote to the chairperson of the SABC board, Bongumusa Makhathini, requesting a right of reply for Maimane to respond to the ANC’s position on land.
“In response to our request, Makhathini said, among other things, that the ‘the SABC, as a responsible public service broadcaster, made efforts to deliver a balanced story by soliciting reactions from other political parties, including the Democratic Alliance. In fact the Democratic Alliance represented by the spokesperson for the leader of the DA was on Morning Live today responding to this story’.”
This failed to impress the DA, however, which alleged: “Makhathini’s response shows that the SABC lacks an understanding of how a public broadcaster should operate and the rules that guide it.”
They charged that he was in direct violation of the BCCSA Code of Conduct and that it was simply unacceptable for the public broadcaster to have accepted a recording from a political party and halted normal programming to flight.
“If the SABC deemed the recording ‘newsworthy’ it would surely have made more sense to flight it as part of a news bulletin and not as a separate programme.”
Van Damme alleged that the SABC was “once again becoming a mouthpiece of the ANC and not a public broadcaster … placing multiparty democracy under threat”.
The EFF has also previously complained about its own access to coverage at the SABC, as well as how the ANC is given preference.