National

SABC Mangaung interview aired - with all parties present

Glynnis Underhill

A MetroFM interview on Mangaung, which was controversially pulled off the air at the last minute by SABC bosses, has been resurrected.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe represented the party during the MetroFM show which was previously cancelled by the SABC. (Gallo)

In this revised version of the show with popular host Sakina Kamwendo, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe was on hand to give the ruling party's view on the show.

The show was pulled by SABC bosses because the ANC was not invited to take part in a panel discussion with political editors.

Also present on Monday night was SABC political editor Abbey Makoe, who had a lot of explaining to do after listeners called in and texted messages to say they were unhappy at the public broadcaster's decision to pull the show.

The three original guests, Sam Mkokeli, political editor from Business Day, S'thembiso Msomi, political editor from Sunday Times, and Financial Times's bureau editor Andrew England, gamely made another appearance after having been turned away at the eleventh hour after for the show was pulled last week.

Makoe told listeners the SABC's mandate was "not ambiguous" and it had to provide a balanced and unbiased product. "Today everyone is represented on the show, which was just kept on hold," he said.

When callers to the show objected to the fact that a weekend SABC television show featured political analysts discussing the road to Mangaung without the ANC being present, Makoe acknowledged their complaints. "The ideal is that whereever possible we should be able to present a plurality of voices by the very mandate that we have as  a public broadcaster in the republic of South Africa."

'Dropped call'
The reality was that it was currently difficult for him as political editor to control everything that happened on all the radio and television stations, he said.

Mantashe said he wanted to point out that Lithuli House had not "dropped a call" to the SABC to say the show should be pulled.

"We are out of the equation on this one," he said.

Acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Moetsoneng came under fire from a caller to the show. He has been accused of fostering censorship at the SABC after he called a press conference to make public the reasons behind the management's decision to pull the show.

One of Moetsoneng's quotes from the press conference was widely published by the media. "We mean business here at the SABC. This is leadership at it's best that we can ever find. We are taking decisions in the interest of the public and we are also guided by our own editorial policy," he said.

A caller asked Makoe whether the SABC thought the listeners were "stupid" as other SABC shows discussing the road to Mangaung had not included the ANC.

"That COO has no clue what he is doing. He leads the people but he has no competence," alleged the caller on Monday night's show. "This show shouldn't be happening. It is a charade."

'Management decision'
Last week senior editorial staff told the Mail & Guardian that Moetsoneng's powerful position at the SABC, where he is considered to be a President Jacob Zuma enforcer, was now deeply entrenched. Moetsoneng denies the claims, and said he would never allow politicians to dictate to the SABC.

Two weeks ago, Moetsoneng admitted to the M&G that he had made the controversial discussion to take the Fish and Chip Co TV advert  "Dinner time at Nkandla", which satirised Zuma, off the air.  The company eventually canned the advert.

The pulling of the MetroFM show caused a storm of protest, coming as it did a week after the fish and chips advert was taken off air.

At the end of the show, Kamwendo asked  Makoe in a poignant moment: "Did I err last week?"

Makoe politely told her she had done the best she could "with maturity and high standards".

"It was a management decision, not your decision," he said. "I am glad that instead of adopting the ostrich attitude, the SABC came out and explained where it stood on these issues. We made good on our promises."


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