The ANC’s manifesto launch at Mount Frere in the Eastern Cape on Saturday was reportedly disrupted by singing demonstrators who were allegedly frustrated by a lack of service delivery in their area. Minister of communications Ndabeni-Abrahams reportedly blocked an SABC crew from filming the protesters.
While the minister issued an apology for her actions, this was not enough to stem growing outrage over the incident.
It has been reported that the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) has condemned the minister’s actions. The DA’s Phumzile Van Damme was also among the earliest to raised her voice over the matter, slamming the minister’s attempt at “censoring” the press.
— Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams (@Stellarated) February 9, 2019
Many others have taken to social media to express outrage, with high profile journalists, political parties, politicians and writers among them.
Comment: It wasn’t an altercation. It was an abuse of power and an act of censorship commonly used by thugs in totalitarian states and in democratatorships. No space for this in a democracy. https://t.co/TVpSE5lCRu
— Ferial Haffajee (@ferialhaffajee) February 10, 2019
Veteran journalist and editor Ferial Haffajee, who currently holds posts at both News24 and The Daily Maverick, took the minister to task for referring to what happened as an “altercation”. Rather, said Haffajee, the move by Ndabeni-Abrahams “was an abuse of power and an act of censorship commonly used by thugs in totalitarian states and in democratatorships [sic]”, adding that there is “no space for this in a democracy”.
Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams censorious action does not auger well for the SABC which she oversees. She must not imagine herself Lady Legatee of the public broadcaster
— Zakes Mda (@ZakesMda) February 9, 2019
Acclaimed novelist, poet and playwright Zakes Mda said the minister’s “censorious action does not auger well for the SABC which she oversees”.
Journalist Redi Tlhabi, who currently presents Unfiltered on SABC News, slammed the minister’s apology statement for lacking detail. She also responded to Mda, speaking out against what she sees as an abuse of power, “where office bearers believe their role is to instruct, demand & enforce their authority, no matter how wrong their position”.
Dear Minister, your statement lacks detail. What caused the "altercation?" Who caused it? "Earlier incident whilst trying to stop the singing comrades?" Issue was you trying to stop comrades from singing, rather than crew from recording? What exactly are you apologizing for? https://t.co/URaF2aW1Y0
— Redi Tlhabi (@RediTlhabi) February 10, 2019
& bigger issue at play: POWER and the political culture that has emerged , where office bearers believe their role is to instruct, demand & enforce their authority, no matter how wrong their position. It is that "wagging the finger" mentality. "I'm the boss & you will obey" https://t.co/Ge5hg9eQqe
— Redi Tlhabi (@RediTlhabi) February 10, 2019
An Twitter account affiliated with the EFF, sending out news to its supporters, shared The Sowetan’s story on Sanef condemning the minister’s actions.
EFF National Communications Manager Sixo Gcilishe said Ndabeni-Abrahams “prevented journalists from capturing the moment” after ANC MP Paul Mashatile was reportedly booed offstage.
Paul Mashatile was booed off stage by the people at the Eastern Cape Manifesto launch
Stella Ndabeni prevented journalists from capturing the moment. A whole Comms Minister doesnt believe in free reporting
The ground is fertile Fighters
EC home of EFFhttps://t.co/DB2z3mXGLf
— Sixo Gcilishe (@SixoGcilishe) February 9, 2019
— EFF News Daily (@EFF_Supporters) February 10, 2019
Apart from Van Damme’s earlier comments on the matter, other prominent DA members including spokesperson Solly Malatsi and Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba added their voices to the growing condemnation.
Malatsi said the minister’s actions were “unacceptable”, particularly since she oversees the running of the SABC, while Mashaba simply shared EWN’s story on Sanef’s statement condemning the incident.
DA's Solly Malatsi says the behavior of Communications and Telecommunications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams is unacceptable more so when she oversees the running of the SABC.#sabcnews
— Bulelani Phillip (@BulelaniPhillip) February 10, 2019
Sanef condemns blocking of journalists by Ndabeni-Abrahams https://t.co/2mu3Pq3wee
— Herman Mashaba (@HermanMashaba) February 10, 2019
Other prominent South Africans have also expressed their criticism of the minister’s actions.
Communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams showing us how she will be dealing with media freedom in her tenure. This is worrying because according to legislation, she is indeed the main shareholder at the SABC. Interesting times ahead. #2019GeneralElection https://t.co/4JXOjQfHe6
— Noloyiso Mtembu (@NoloyisoMtembu) February 10, 2019
#Sanef: The South African National Editors Forum says it will meet with Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni Abrahams to discuss her behavior at the ANC’s Eastern Cape Manifesto Launch.
— POWER987News (@POWER987News) February 10, 2019
@MYANC manifesto launch degenerated into chaos in the Eastern Cape.
The Minister of Communication Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, @Stellarated who is also responsible for SABC intervened to prevent SABC from taking the footage of what was going on.
She has apologised for her behaviour pic.twitter.com/nkxLtMMu4M
— Engineer Matshela Koko (@koko_matshela) February 9, 2019
"Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams blocked journalists from covering the protesting crowd, telling them to stick to the event they came to cover. “Why would you give coverage to people that are out of order,” she said.
(She later apologized.)https://t.co/IQOomGHAv3
— Geoffrey York (@geoffreyyork) February 9, 2019
Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams blocked #SABC video journalist from taking video of ANC members who waved placards & interrupted Treasurer General from addressing Eastern Cape manifesto launch. Stella literally put her hand on the camera. Where is #Sanef?
— Hloni Nyetanyane (@HloniNyetanyane) February 9, 2019
(Additional reporting by ANA)