The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has filed a complaint with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) against ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte for an altercation she had with SABC personnel at the elections results centre earlier this month. Duarte had taken issue with the SABC's coverage of the ANC in the run-up to the local government elections and had harsh words for its central staff.
"The SABC can confirm that it has formally complained to the IEC over Ms Jessie Duarte's treatment of its journalists," SABC director of corporate relations Gugu Ntuli said on Saturday. According to The Sunday Times, the complaint was filed after the encounter by SABC editor-in-chief and head of news Phathiswa Magopeni.
This follows a week in which Magopeni was charged with carelessness and bringing the broadcaster into discredit for broadcasting a court-ordered episode of the news show Special Assignment. Magopeni's disciplinary action has sparked speculation that it is connected to ANC concerns over the broadcaster's election coverage of the party.
The episode titled Special Assignment examined anticompetitive behavior in the towing sector. It was set to broadcast on September 14 but was afterwards canceled. Magopeni said that she had no involvement in the episode's broadcast. She is scheduled to appear in early December for a disciplinary hearing.
Duarte allegedly addressed Magopeni at Pretoria's IEC election headquarters over the ANC's dissatisfaction with the SABC's coverage of the party. According to those close to Magopeni, this was in response to several programmes aired by the SABC in the run-up to the elections and some interview requests made by the ANC but denied by the SABC.
Magopeni, it is thought, reported the incident to the SABC. She was promptly served with a letter of intent to charge her. This week, the charges were properly served. Fikile Mbalula, the ANC's head of elections, accused the SABC on Thursday of airing programmes critical of municipal service performance, which resulted in poor voter participation and contributed to his party's loss of three Gauteng metros. Magopeni was singled out for criticism.
Those who have cast doubt on Magopeni's claims told the Sunday Times that the synchronicity was unusual and suggested probable political pressure on the SABC board. Mbalula denied that the ANC was involved in Magopeni's charge. He said that the ANC has not lodged a complaint with the SABC on Magopeni's portrayal of the party.
According to an ANC national executive committee (NEC) member who requested anonymity, the ruling party believes the SABC has developed a sour attitude toward the ANC. "Since she took up that role, there has been a dramatic change in terms of coverage patterns, especially when it comes to the ANC and opposition," the NEC member said.
"At the present, the state broadcaster is completely hostile to the ANC. When was the last time you saw the SABC cover a good story regarding the work of the government? There is a widespread anti-ANC fever in the media; they are feeding into it."
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