/ 19 August 2005

How a lone cameraman ‘dented’ SABC’s credibility

The South African Broadcasting Corporation apologised on Thursday for not showing Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka being booed at a rally in Utrecht in KwaZulu-Natal on Women’s Day.

”The SABC apologises unreservedly to the public for not airing the footage,” the public broadcaster said.

The SABC ”further wishes to assure viewers that its editorial autonomy and integrity does not prevent it from airing negative footage even when it involves senior government officials,” it said in a statement.

Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed off stage by angry fans of Jacob Zuma, the embattled deputy president of the African National Congress.

The SABC aired footage of the event but did not show the people shunning Mlambo-Ngcuka.

The SABC said a freelance cameraman, whose contract has since been terminated, could not get the pictures as he arrived late for the event.

”The SABC wishes to restate that the reason the booing of the deputy president on August 9 in KwaZulu-Natal was not covered was simply as a result of footage not being available.

”The reason for this is that the freelance cameraman contracted to cover the event reports that he simply arrived at the venue late, after the booing incident had already occurred, and resultantly missed the booing incident,” the SABC said.

Rhoda Kadalie, a Business Day columnist, urged newly appointed SABC chief executive Dali Mpofu to ”give us news, not propaganda”.

”Now is the time, Mpofu, to show your true colours, and by that I do not mean the black, green and gold. Give us news, not propaganda,” she wrote on Thursday.

Kadalie’s column was littered with example of politically sensitive events which the SABC did not cover, for ”deliberately” obvious reasons.

These included the Oilgate scandal, which the Mail & Guardian uncovered a few months ago.

In an interview on Metro FM on Thursday night, Snuki Zikalala, the managing director of SABC news, said the cameraman felt it was ”irrelevant” to have pictures of people booing Mlambo-Ngcuka.

”According to him, he said he saw it [the booing] but felt that it was irrelevant. He is a camera person,” he said on the Given Mkhari Show.

Zikalala’s comments differ sharply with the SABC statement saying the cameraman arrived late for the event.

”We decided … we are not going to use that cameraman for anything because he has dented our credibility,” he said in response to a caller who asked him about Kadalie’s comments

Asked by show host Given Mkhari if he would have ”loved” to have aired the pictures, Zikalala replied: ”Of course.”

Zikalala said it was ”difficult to build our image again” after that incident.

On Kadalie, he said: ”I don’t know what’s wrong with Rhoda Kadalie. I don’t know where she grew up. If she was in the (United) States, she would have seen and noticed, especially on CNN, that wherever [President] George W Bush goes… the CNN is there.

”The same thing happens with [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair in London. Wherever Blair goes, he goes with the BBC crew.

”Whether Rhoda Kadalie likes it or not, it’s an international standard that presidents must be covered,” he said.

Zikalala said President Thabo Mbeki’s name ”is a word of peace on the continent”. – Sapa