/ 7 December 2007

SABC defends Mbeki interview

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) on Friday rejected allegations that it was favouring President Thabo Mbeki over his rival, African National Congress (ANC) deputy president Jacob Zuma, in the battle for succession in the ruling party.

The public broadcaster has come under fire from commentators in the independent media and Zuma’s political backers in the ruling tripartite alliance following its decision to broadcast a two-hour interview with Mbeki on all the SABC’s 15 radio stations.

The interview was abruptly stopped at 8pm on Wednesday on SAfm because of technical glitches.

The much-publicised interview, which was to have been aired between 7pm and 9pm, lasted only an hour and 15 minutes.

Spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago claimed that there were people trying to run the SABC from outside.

He said the SABC never issued a statement that Mbeki would be interviewed for two hours.

”There are people making funny noises, with secret agendas. The intention was to have a one hour and 30 minutes interview. Mbeki had other commitments but he stayed on,” said Kganyago.

The interview continued until 8.15pm on the other radio stations.

”The SABC has editorial independence; no one from outside can dictate what we can do or who we interview,” he said.

Kganyago said: ”These funny noise-making people know who they are. They question why we interviewed Mbeki,” he said.

He refused to drop names of those making ”funny noises”.

”We will give everyone a chance to air their views on radio. Last week, we had Tokyo Sexwale on SAfm. We will also have Zuma once he is back in the country. We have also contacted Cyril Ramaphosa, though no date has been set yet for their interviews,” he said.

Kganyago said the SABC had committed itself to dealing with the ANC conference in Polokwane in a fair and honest manner.

However, Young Communist League (YCL) spokesperson Castro Ngobese said people were denied an opportunity to engage Mbeki on a range of issues.

”The only conclusion we reached as the YCL was that this was abuse of public resources to campaign for a re-election,” he said. — Sapa