ANC’s Mthembu slams ‘blundering’ SABC over DA congress coverage

The Democratic Alliance (DA) on Friday gained an unlikely supporter in its tiff with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) over live coverage of its Federal Congress this weekend.

Jackson Mthembu‚ the spokesperson for the African National Congress‚ tweeted: “#DACongress. The failure to cover the #DACongress by #SABC on the free to air channel‚ is so unfortunate‚ stupid and nothing to do with ANC”.

The DA earlier on Friday filed an application in the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg to compel the SABC to cover the event live on terrestrial television this weekend.

This followed Thursday’s threat by the DA to take legal action against the national broadcaster for reneging on a commitment to cover the party’s elective congress in Nelson Mandela Bay.

The party had given the SABC until 6pm on Thursday “reconsider this about-turn on live coverage”‚ said DA’s federal executive chairperson James Selfe.

On Friday morning‚ Matthew Gerstner‚ the DA director of communications for provinces‚ told RDM News Wire that SABC’s chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s office had contacted Selfe on Thursday to say he would “convey the broadcaster’s decision” on the matter after 10am the next day.

Two phone calls from Motsoeneng followed on Friday‚ said Gerstner‚ and the SABC boss apparently told the party it is standing firm on its decision‚ which prompted the party’s court application.

Mthembu tweeted: “#DACongress is in the public interest‚ they are the second biggest party in our country it’s only a fool that will not know that!#SABC”.

He distanced himself from the SABC‚ saying: “The more we #ANC members are not open about #SABC blunders‚ the more we are seen to be working with them.”

In a statement on Thursday‚ Selfe said: “It is manifestly in the public interest that a national elective congress of the official opposition in South Africa‚ representing over 4-million votes‚ receives coverage on the national broadcaster.

“Both the public interest‚ and the SABC’s own editorial policy demand that this congress be broadcast to all South Africans‚ on the national broadcaster.”

Selfe said the SABC has “unfailingly covered major national events of the ANC”‚ including ruling party’s Mangaung conference in 2012‚ for “four days of non-stop live crossings‚ extended Morning Live segments and specially commissioned programs titled ‘Dateline Mangaung’ ”.

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