A complaint against the SABC for failing to report bribery allegations against Deputy President Jacob Zuma in November was the first of its kind for the Broadcasting Complaints Commission.
Pat Rogers, a programme and product manager for Veritas, a Catholic community radio station in Johannesburg, complained to the commission early this year that the SABC had ignored the Scorpion’s investigation of Zuma for allegedly soliciting a bribe of R500 000 a year from the French defence company Thomson-CSF.
The Mail & Guardian broke the story last November, reporting that the Scorpions were investigating Zuma for allegedly offering “protection of Thomson-CSF” in return for a payment of R500 000 a year.
Rogers said the commission first rejected his complaint. “They told me that the complaint didn’t fall under their jurisdiction. They later agreed that the complaint was something that they needed to look into.”
He said the SABC told the hearing it had covered the story on its website, but did not report the matter on television because reporters could not get hold of Zuma for comment.
“But a story appearing on the website quoted Zuma,” Rogers said.
Kobus van Rooyen, the commission’s chairperson, said the complaint was the first for failing to cover a significant issue.
He said the SABC had denied the allegations, saying it had covered the issue on radio.
“The issue then became about how quickly the SABC covered the news. The M&G broke the news in November and the SABC only covered the story in December,” Van Rooyen said.
The commission is investigating whether the SABC had broken the broadcasting code by failing to report the allegations against Zuma.
Judgement will be passed next week.