South Africa needs an independent public broadcaster

2008-11-08 00:00

The fluidity of the South African political landscape has brought much attention to the general elections which will take place on a date yet to be announced by the government.

These will take place during a time when the ruling African National Congress has been fazed, and rattled, angry and power-hungry ANC comrades, who have formed a new party, are in bed with the opposition they used to despise.

This is a far cry from the ANC that shot to a two-thirds victory in the 2004 elections and won the ever-evasive KwaZulu-Natal province from political foes the Inkatha Freedom Party.

Comrades have turned against each other as they refuse to accept the democratic and constitutional party processes that elected a new leadership, effectively kicking them out of power.

Canvassing for the elections has started in earnest. In a democratic state such as ours, an independent public broadcaster is essential for the dissemination of information to the people, but in South Africa this is not the case.

It is sad to see how low the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has stooped by becoming the mouthpiece of the government, just like it was in the dark days of apartheid.

Former president Thabo Mbeki had a firm grip on the SABC on the news front in the form of disgraced SABC head of news Snuki Zikalala and group executive Dali Mpofu. Both of these cartoon characters are a vexation to the organisation and should be the first victims of a much-needed clean-up.

When ANC president Jacob Zuma addressed masses of people in Jabulani in Soweto this past weekend, I was relieved to see that the broadcaster was transmitting it live, as they did the Shikota convention.

What disturbed me is that it cut the live transmission just as Zuma was addressing the issue of party dissidents. This was not because of a technical glitch but so that the presenters could dissect his speech before he had even finished it. It makes me wonder if opposition party electioneering events will be covered live, as happened with the Shikota convention.

How quickly we forget that it was former defence minister Mosiuoa Lekota who shoved the list of the current SABC board members down the throats of ANC MPs at a caucus meeting on the instruction of Luthuli House, headed by Mbeki.

All the ANC dissidents who held key positions in Mbeki’s government are trying to make changes in the government that they failed to make in two terms. They sound like the IFP complaining about KwaZulu-Natal’s problems which the party failed to deal with while it was in power for 10 years.

Just as in Polokwane when Zuma received poor coverage from the SABC, he will surprise many and he will have the last laugh.

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