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SABC does its on-the-spot reporting from afar

By unknown | Dec 28, 2007 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Amid tensions, anxiety and undoubtedly great national curiosity about the ANC's 52nd national conference in Polokwane last week, many of those who could not attend the conference depended on media reports and analysis.

Amid tensions, anxiety and undoubtedly great national curiosity about the ANC's 52nd national conference in Polokwane last week, many of those who could not attend the conference depended on media reports and analysis.

One was however disturbed by the quality of political analysis of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

The corporation used respected analysts such as Susan Booysens, Somadoda Fikeni, Tinyiko Maluleke and Steven Friedman.

But I don't think their analysis was as good as the respect they command at their own institutions and elsewhere in society.

When the conference proceedings were delayed because of disagreements among the delegates about the preferred method of counting the votes, whether it was to be manual or electronic, none of the analysts could tell the millions of SABC radio listeners and television viewers the exact advantages and disadvantages of each of the two options.

They also failed to tell the viewers and listeners how the electronic system had fared where it had been used before, such as its failure in the US.

In the second day of the conference something interesting happened that surprisingly confused the analysts.

A crowd of Thabo Mbeki's supposed supporters gathered at the nearby Oscar Mpeta Stadium for a few minutes before dispersing while singing a song that pledged support for Mbeki.

Realising what had happened, the Zuma camp organised their own gathering just outside the main marquee and sang songs supporting Zuma before a brief address by ANC Youth League president Fikile Mbalula.

Interestingly, part of the crowd in the Mbeki group quickly joined the Zuma group. It later transpired that the gathering at the stadium had been called by Mbeki lobbyists Andile Nkuhlu and Mluleki George under the pretext that the leadership was calling all voting delegates for a briefing.

The meeting therefore had been attended by people supporting Mbeki and Zuma.

Without moving closer to the scene to observe and listen to songs and comments by individual members, the SABC analysts concluded that both presidential contenders had almost equal support and that the contest for the presidential election was going to be close.

I quickly moved to the marquee to observe what was happening and found an obviously outnumbered group of Mbeki supporters inside.

Looking disappointed and embarrassed, the group watched from a distance as the Zuma group sang and danced outside.

When the Zuma group finally got into the marquee, it looked as if the entire crowd in the marquee supported Zuma.

I overhead an ANC Youth League national executive member shouting, "It is all over!" He was indeed sensing victory.

Looking around, no analyst could be seen. They were all in the makeshift studios, observing the events from afar.

They then told their audiences that the Mbeki crowd was equal to that of Zuma in that instance and maintained it was going to be a close contest.

They also kept speculating about the female quota in the top six positions when the matter had been resolved the previous night and talked of possible compromise on vote counting with the top six votes being counted manually and the rest electronically when the conference had resolved 24 hours earlier that all votes would be counted manually.

During the nominations for leaders in the top six category, candidates in the Zuma list got overwhelming applause through a show of hands that could be estimated at between 80percent and 85percent of those present and everyone was saying the Zuma tsunami was unstoppable.

I also overheard Mluleki George telling someone on his phone after the nominations that things were bad.

Yet the SABC analysts continued to say it was unclear who was going to win the race.

I am not saying they should have concluded then that Zuma was going to win but they should at least have indicated that the sentiment was heading in that direction.

Mandla Mathebula


lMathebula is the spokesman for the North West department of transport, roads and community safety. He writes in his personal capacity.


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