Hot on the heels of its announcement that it had reported the SABC and President Cyril Ramaphosa to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of SA for alleged abuse of the SABC, the DA has now given the public broadcaster until midnight on Wednesday to air their leader Mmusi Maimane’s response to Ramaphosa on land expropriation.
Ramaphosa on Tuesday made a late-night announcement on the outcomes of the ANC’s lekgotla, and used the SABC to air his “message to the nation”, which the DA claims was an abuse of his power to further a party political agenda.
Maimane has now responded with a video of his own that opposes changes to the constitution, which the DA said it submitted to the public broadcaster following its refusal to grant the party a direct right of reply.
Ramaphosa’s late-night broadcast also led the DA to write to the SABC’s chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, requesting a right of reply for Maimane to respond.
However, Makhathini told the party the DA had already responded to the governing party’s message on Morning Live the next day.
The DA feels this was far from good enough, and nowhere near equal treatment.
DA shadow minister of communications Phumzile Van Damme said in a statement: “We will give the SABC until midnight on Wednesday, 8 August 2018, to air this packaged content. This is not just about the content of the broadcast but the principle that the public broadcaster must uphold.”
She reiterated the DA’s view that it had been “irregular” and “unacceptable” for the public broadcaster to air Ramaphosa’s message while denying opposition parties the opportunity to do the same.
“The explanation that this [Ramaphosa] package was intrinsically newsworthy is dishonest because, had that been the reason, they would have aired it as part of a news bulletin and not a special broadcast,” Van Damme said.
She said this was proof that the SABC had become the ANC’s mouthpiece.
Van Damme said that what had been more troubling was Makhathini’s response.
She declared that if the SABC failed to air the DA’s video it would show that the SABC did not understand its duty and responsibility as the public broadcaster.
“Major political parties should enjoy equitable coverage on the SABC, particularly when it comes to matters of national importance,” Van Damme said.
She added that the BCCSA had received the DA’s complaint and they were yet to receive a response.
“The SABC has the mandate to educate and inform the public in an impartial manner. However, by giving the ANC a special broadcast on their president’s video on land redistribution without compensation, the SABC has robbed the public of adequate knowledge, from different points of view, on issues of public importance. They have abused this public institution.
“With the 2019 elections fast approaching, it seems as though the ANC’s toxic influence over the SABC is once again rearing its ugly head. The DA will never shy away from challenging those who attempt to capture the SABC and make it their mouthpiece.”