Baseless and shameful, says Sanef in response to Mbalula's claims about SABC's election coverage

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Fikile Mbalula.
Fikile Mbalula.
  • On Thursday, Fikile Mbalula claimed low voter turnout for the ANC was caused by the SABC's election coverage.
  • Sanef says it is outraged by the claims made against the broadcaster.
  • According to the SABC, Mbalula made it personal when he singled out and criticised its group executive of news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni.

The SA National Editors' Forum (Sanef) says it is outraged by Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula's attack of the SABC's coverage of the municipal elections.

On Thursday, he blamed the public broadcaster for the ANC's dismal performance in the elections, saying it never showed the party's good side and only focused on negative service delivery issues in the municipalities it ran.

On Friday, Sanef chairperson Sbu Ngalwa said in a statement Mbalula should immediately stop his personal attack on the SABC's group executive of news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni.

In the past, Ngalwa added, Sanef found this type of behaviour displayed by Mbalula encouraged cyberbullying by party members as well as his followers on social media.

READ | Mbalula confirms calls for NEC to resign following dismal elections, coalition talks

He said the minister seemed to "hate the truth" that came out of the SABC's Service Delivery Gauge, which looked into the performance of municipalities providing basic service delivery through the genuine voices and opinions of the general public. 

"He reportedly said the show ruthlessly attacked the ANC, and accused the SABC of running a 'campaign', that led to South Africans deciding not to cast their votes on 1 November.

"According to Mbalula, the show also put the ANC on the 'back foot' as it focused only on the failures of ANC-led municipalities."

Sanef added it believed the SABC did its job when it gave residents the voice to express their concerns about service delivery in their respective municipalities. 

The SABC said it noted with concern the allegations by Mbalula that its coverage of the elections was to blame for low voter turnout, and the ANC's poor performance in several municipalities and metros. 

READ | IEC publishes donations declared between July and September: ANC R22.6m, ActionSA R16.9m

"Minister Mbalula has also personalised the matter by unacceptably singling out and criticising SABC Group Executive of News and Current Affairs Ms Phathiswa Magopeni," its spokesperson, Gugu Ntuli, said.

Ntuli added the ANC had not submitted any written evidence to substantiate these allegations.

She said:  
SABC management believes that SABC News covered these elections in line with its editorial policies and Icasa’s election regulations. SABC management therefore rejects Minister Mbalula’s allegations in the strongest terms.

The public broadcaster added the scapegoating of SABC News was unacceptable and disrespected its role as an independent public broadcaster fulfilling its constitutional duty.

"The SABC reiterates that should any political party have a complaint about any aspects of the SABC's coverage, they are encouraged to follow the established regulatory avenues available," Ntuli said.

Meanwhile on Thursday, TimesLive reported the public broadcaster had charged Magopeni for negligence and bringing it into disrepute.

"This is after investigative news programme Special Assignment aired an episode the SABC had been interdicted from broadcasting," it said.

When News24 approached the SABC about the Magopeni matter, Ntuli said it had no comment.

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