The DA commends the prompt action by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to investigate the SABC's last-minute cancellation of a live political discussion on the ANC's Mangaung conference.
ICASA has requested that the SABC provide the facts surrounding the incident to ascertain whether it constitutes a violation of its licence terms and conditions and the SABC's editorial policy.
This swift way in which ICASA has dealt with this latest incident of SABC censorship shows that it has learnt its lesson well from the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) case which dragged on for years and was only finalised last month with the SABC acknowledging the fact that the conduct of its employees, as named in the FXI complaint, contravened its own editorial policies.
The decision to cancel the Metro FM show is one of the SABC's more recent blunders committed over past two months, under the leadership of Acting Chief Operating Officer, Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng. Others include:
• the insistence that the terms 'Nkandlagate' and 'compound' not be used to describe President Zuma's luxurious rural enclave
• the banning of the Fish and Chip Company's television advert that featured the President
• the most recent, inexplicable axing of senior SABC political reporter for television, Sophie Mokoena, who was in charge cover the ANC's Mangaung conference and a known critic of the ANC. Mokoena's role had already been mapped out and she had been appointed coordinator of the political team
We call on ICASSA to release the details regarding the scope of their investigation and exactly what they will aim to investigate, and depending what they release, we may submit our own complaint, should anything have been omitted.
It is clear that under the leadership of Mr Motsoeneng, the SABC has become the custodian of President Jacob Zuma's reputation and formidable protector of his insecurities. As such the SABC has made every attempt at curbing robust discussion about the ANC's upcoming Mangaung elective conference lest the President be exposed to any form of criticism - which clearly he cannot seem to take on or process in any constructive way.
The only chance the SABC has to reclaim its role and reputation as a credible public broadcaster is through this newest investigation by ICASA which will surely shed light on those responsible for compromising its editorial independence by offering political patronage to President Zuma.