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DA to take Icasa to court over SABC ad complaint delay

Sapa

The DA says it will take the communications watchdog to a high court to decide on its complaint against the SABC's decision to pull its election ad.

The DA described the SABC's decision to pull a television advertisement called Ayisafani from the airwaves as spurious'. (Gallo)

The Democratic Alliance (DA) will approach the high court in Johannesburg on Tuesday in a bid to compel communications watchdog Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) to decide on its complaint against the SABC.

The DA described the SABC's decision to pull a television advertisement called "Ayisafani" from the airwaves as spurious. It approached Icasa on Saturday to lay a complaint.

Icasa's rules stipulate that it has to hear and decide on a complaint within 48 hours, which expired on Monday afternoon.

"They [Icasa] wrote to the DA on Monday to request we make oral submissions on Tuesday morning at 9.30[am]," DA leader Helen Zille said during a media briefing.

"Then, later on Monday afternoon, Icasa wrote to us again saying they could not organise a quorum of members of the Complaints and Compliance Committee, which is responsible for hearing our complaint, for Tuesday morning."

A quorum could also not be organised for Wednesday morning, so a hearing was scheduled for Thursday morning. "We replied that we would very reluctantly accede to this further delay, but only on condition that Icasa could offer us a commitment that they would reach a decision by close of business on Thursday afternoon," Zille said. "Late last night, Icasa replied to us to say they could not offer any such commitment."

'Unavoidable impression'
It was on this basis the DA decided to approach the court on an urgent basis to compel Icasa to stick to its own rules.

"The unavoidable impression we are left with is that Icasa is trying to deliberately delay dealing with this complaint so that the DA's election adverts are kept off the air for as long as possible," Zille said. "This is clearly prejudicial to the DA's election efforts, and only serves to advantage the ANC."

DA MP James Selfe on Monday said the DA would be disadvantaged because of the delay, and the ANC's election campaign would be advantaged.

The opposition party said its "Ayisafani" advert was pulled off the air last week, along with four radio advertisements.

The advert in question shows the DA's Gauteng premier candidate and spokesperson Mmusi Maimane standing in front of a mirror talking about the current state of the country.

He says life today is better than it was 20 years ago and gives credit to great leaders who he believes have taken the country forward. "But since 2008 we've seen President Jacob Zuma's ANC. An ANC that is corrupt. An ANC for the connected few. An ANC that is taking us backwards. An ANC where more than 1.4-million people have lost jobs." Maimane then asks Zuma where the jobs are.

Violation of electoral code
Maimane continues to speak about news events such as police brutality and the R246-million upgrade to Zuma's private homestead in Nkandla, KwaZulu-Natal.

The advertisement ends with Maimane saying: "Together we can bring hope, allow an environment that creates jobs. Together we can bring change for all South Africans."

The SABC's reasons for pulling the advertisement were that it violated the electoral code by, among others, inciting violence against the police.

The public broadcaster also said it featured information about the Nkandla scandal which had not been proved in a court of law. – Sapa

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