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Icasa upholds SAPS complaint over DA election ad

Adam Wakefield

A complaint by the SAPS regarding a DA ad that contains a photo of a police officer shooting rubber bullets has been upheld by Icasa.

DA Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane. (Gallo)

The SAPS welcomed the Icasa's ruling late on Friday that its complaint about the DA's advert was valid.A complaint by the South African Police Service (SAPS) regarding a Democratic Alliance (DA) election advert that contains a photo of a police officer shooting rubber bullets, was upheld by the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa on Friday.

"The election period tends to bring about a lot of volatility. The police should not be seen as a threat to the community," chairperson of Icasa's complaints and compliance committee Wandile Tutani said in Johannesburg.

"The offending part of the advert [must] be excised. That is our decision."

The DA's Gauteng premier candidate Mmusi Maimane, who was present at the ruling, disagreed, stating it was not right that conversation and commentary be restrained. "It's an injustice and in fact we will be taking this decision under review at the high court."

On Thursday, the committee heard a complaint by the police against the DA's election advert. The SAPS contended the advert would incite violence against the police.

The televised advert shows Maimane standing in front of a mirror talking about the current state of the country. At one point he states that "the police are killing our people". This is accompanied by a photo of a police officer firing rubber bullets at two unarmed people.

Authentic photograph
Nick Ferreira, for the DA, told the committee on Thursday that the photograph was authentic and taken in Bekkersdal, Westonaria, in March. The DA argued the advertisement was a form of political criticism aimed at the current government. 

"Look at what those in power have allowed the police service to become," Ferreira said.

"[The current national government] allowed the police service to become brutal and violent. It has allowed for an upsurge in police brutality."

There were no closing arguments as the commission, the DA and SAPS decided these would be submitted in writing by 3pm on Friday.

The commission watched additional footage the DA provided, describing them as examples of police brutality.

The police argued that Maimane's statement in the advert would "invite violent acts against the members of the SAPS".

William Mokhari, for the police, said the DA would suffer no harm if it removed the photo and Maimane's line.

He said it was important for the committee to consider how people would interpret the DA's message. Maimane's statement would "inflame members of the public against the police", he told the hearing.

The advert was previously banned by the SABC after it was flighted on April 8 and 9. The public broadcaster said it incited violence. The DA laid a complaint with Icasa, and a public hearing was held.

The DA and SABC came to an agreement on April 16 after which the broadcaster again aired the advert.

'Inaccurate'
The SAPS welcomed Icasa's ruling and  said the television advert was misleading. 

"In fact, the advertisement's footage is inaccurate and misleading as the two people shown in the image were never killed or shot at and no live ammunition was used," SAPS spokesman Lt-Gen Solomon Makgale said in a statement on Friday. 

The police felt the inclusion of the photo was "utterly irresponsible, desperate and borders on lack of morality and falsehood".

"The footage was carefully selected from one of Bekkersdal's illegal and violent protests where the police had to restore public order to protect the life of law abiding citizens and their property," Makgale said.

The police had argued to Icasa that part of the advert would incite violence against the police.

"We are witnessing our police officers' homes being burnt to the ground, police officers are being attacked and murdered and these type of statements will serve only to fuel such attacks on our officers," Makgale said.

The DA intended taking the matter to the high court. –Sapa

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