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Assessing and promoting civil and minority rights in South Africa.

[Source: Mail & Guardian by Ra’eesa Pather

Ra’eesa Pather narrows down the policies and regulations that have left South Africans seriously side-eyeing the SABC.

In his tenure as chief operations officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng has grabbed more headlines than any of the content the public broadcaster has run.

Motsoeneng’s latest policy – that the SABC will not air violent protests – has been met with outrage.

But the latest decree isn’t the only policy that has had South Africans side-eyeing the SABC.

1. There will be no violent protests … on SABC

South Africa has been dubbed the protest country of the world. In the wake of the burning of schools in Vuwani, Limpopo, and lecture theatres at various universities, Motsoeneng announced that the SABC would no longer show images of violent protests. It would encourage more people to set things on fire, he reasoned.

The SABC would continue to cover protests but it would stop short of showing images of destruction.

“It is regrettable that these actions are disrupting many lives and, as a responsible public institution, we will not assist these individuals to push their agenda that seeks media attention,” Motsoeneng stated.

“As a public service broadcaster we have a mandate to educate the citizens, and we therefore have taken this bold decision to show that violent protests are not necessary.”

But South Africans audiences are calling out the broadcaster for dismissing their right to be informed.

2. Pay your journalism license

Motsoeneng raised eyebrows during a meeting at Parliament when he said that the media needs to be regulated.

“Even Parliament is regulated. The judges are regulated. What is a sin if media are regulated? I think it’s very important that all people should be regulated because what we are trying to say here, we need people to be professional when they do their work,” Motsoeneng told MPs.

Motsoeneng was addressing Gavin Davis, the Democratic Alliance’s communications spokesperson at the time.

Davis said in a later statement: “This is the kind of nonsense that has made Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the SABC a laughing stock across South Africa. If anybody needs to be ‘regulated’, it is Hlaudi Motsoeneng himself.”

The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international press freedom organisation, reacted to Motsoeneng’s comments too, saying: “South Africa must not become a country to which repressive governments can point in their efforts to legitimise press freedom violations.”

Thankfully, Motsoeneng’s mission to licence journalists hasn’t panned out.

3. A good story to tell

Motsoeneng had a good story to tell. Well, at least a 70% good story.

“For me, it is actually disappointing to see what news coverage there is out there, because there are so many positive issues happening in this country,” Motsoeneng told the Mail & Guardian this week.

“The media normally focus on the negative publicity. I believe, from the SABC’s side, 70% should be positive [news] stories and then you can have 30% negative stories. The reason I am championing this is because if you only talk about the negative, people can’t even try to think on their feet. Because what occupies their mind is all this negative stuff.”

Needless to say, public reaction wasn’t all that positive.

4. Hold the social media

The SABC’s policy that its journalists should not make political comments or post images of themselves in party regalia on social media has, ironically, gained traction on social media.

The social media policy went viral in the midst of the broadcaster’s commitment to not show violent protests.

The SABC said the policy had always been there. “Put a (comment) in the social space that brings the organisation into disrepute‚ we’ll deal with it‚“ said SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.

As many social media users pointed out, what is the point of being a journalist in the current political climate if you can’t tweet a meme about Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s baeness or post just one heheheh?

5. What Marikana documentary?

Miners Shot Down is perhaps one of the most important documentaries to come out of South Africa. The film looks at 2012’s Marikana massacre, charting the week preceding the gunning down of 34 miners. The SABC hasn’t shown it on air.

Kganyago said the SABC had been in contact with documentary maker Rehad Desai to explain why it could not be aired at the time it was submitted.

“We then responded to them to say, at the time it would not be prudent to do it because the Marikana commission [Farlam Commission of Inquiry] was still on. Secondly, there were no slots available at the time.”

It seems the documentary wasn’t high enough on the SABC’s priority list, despite – or perhaps because of – its revealing nature.


South Africa at a Glance
59 620 000 (mid 2020 estimate)
3.2% y/y in July 2020 (CPI) & +1.9 y/y in July 2020 (PPI)
-51% q/q (2nd quarter of 2020)
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