Michael Trapido
Michael Trapido

SABC: Don’t cry for me Christine Qunta

The resignation of Christine Qunta from the board of the SABC is a moment to celebrate and savour for, in her sudden but welcome departure, justice, democracy and the interests of the country are well served.

• Justice is served because, on her watch, we have seen the SABC become a place where corruption, malpractice and incompetence have not only thrived but became commonplace, leaving the corporation both morally and financially bankrupt.

• Democracy is served because a free and unfettered media is a cornerstone of democracy and the SABC’s pervasive policy of censorship by omission has, throughout the Mbeki era, withheld from 27 million radio listeners and television watchers the stories inimical to the ruling party that were being covered by other media, but censored by the SABC.

• The interests of the country are served because, like another Thabo Mbeki appointee and acolyte, Snuki Zikalala, she has constantly played the race card and sought, in the most generalised way, to portray whites in this country as irredeemably racist — something that polarises rather than conciliates.

On her watch, an SABC that earned world-wide esteem in the Mandela era when people like Barney Mthombothi, Alistair Sparks and Max du Preez headed the news department, has been reduced to an organisation now constantly held up to ridicule and contempt — and if you doubt that, read Marianne Thamm’s recent and bitingly funny critique .

In a letter, “Playing in ‘no-man’s land’” published in the Star on April 10, 2007, Qunta makes two points that show how profoundly out of touch she is with contemporary public and political consensus.

• “In the battle for control of the flow of ideas, the SABC is a major target, especially the newsroom. Regular campaigns waged by a small group of angry white males (numbering no more than five) and their surrogates should be seen in this light. It is an attempt at ideological coercion to capture or influence the SABC newsroom to complete their current dominance of the intellectual space in this country.”

To deal with this point first: What Qunta is saying — and seems to believe — is that, among a host of organisations, the three components of the tri-partite alliance, the ANC, Cosatu and the SACP are all beholden to — and pay obeisance to — a tiny but omnipotent group of “angry white males”. The reality is very different.

IOL

Journalism.co.za

IAfrica

All three organisations — and many others — far from being “surrogates”, have expressed increasing discontent in the past few years at the utterly corrupt news policy of censorship by omission and blacklisting practised by Zikalala and his newsroom minion, Amrit Manga — a policy endorsed by Qunta in parliament.

News24

In addition to calling black people who in any way question her view of the world or the SABC news policy “surrogates”, she also uses another pejorative term, “askaris”.

That must make Jacob Zuma both surrogate and askari because he took the strongest exception to having a scheduled SABC radio interview cancelled at very short notice by Zikalala.

Fortunately there are several black intellectuals who have articulated their abhorrence of Qunta’s race-based rationale.

Xolela Mancgu
Sipho Seepe

• In her letter to the Star, Qunta made a second point, saying that one of the goals set by the SABC board of which she was part “deals with news and is to ensure the SABC produces compelling, professional and authoritative news that tells the South African story accurately, fairly and in a balanced way in line with its editorial policies and Icasa regulations”.

A telling example of the way in which Zikalala et al put into practice the values she espouses and as described above, was the way in which the SABC blatantly and deliberately lied about its censorship of the incident when the then deputy president, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, was booed at a Woman’s Day rally in Utrecht, KwaZulu-Natal, in 2005. As the DA’s Dene Smuts said at the time: “A broadcaster that lies about its own coverage and conduct cannot claim to present the news truthfully and accurately.”

What is most troubling, however, is the pervasive broadcasting censorship by omission that has occurred in her own backyard — seemingly with her full consent and support — during her tenure on the board.

According to Who’s Who, Qunta lives and works in Cape Town.

What then is one to make of the fact that repeated newspaper stories indicate that the country has been deliberately denied the truth about ANC malpractices and corruption in the Mother City for years by the SABC’s Sea Point news office?

Business Day 1

Business Day 2

News24

What is worse — if DA leader Helen Zille is correct — is that this news office is being deliberately abused to undermine opposition parties:

“It is no coincidence that Zithulele Twala, the (Erasmus) Commission’s secretary, is the brother of Mzukisi Twala, the regional editor of SABC television news. I think it is fair to describe SABC’s television coverage of the Commission as “selective” to put it mildly. But its reach is enormous. The Commission will prove to be a poison-dripping tap, over many months, leaving a lethal lake that will be impossible to mop up in the course of my testimony. And I will be overcome by the fumes as I try to do so. But that, of course, is the purpose. And it is pure power abuse.”

Politicsweb

At no stage, not even in parliament, has Qunta ever denied such accounts, which begs the question of how she is able to reconcile the reality of the utterly corrupt news practices of the SABC’s Cape Town news office — which contravene in every way imaginable the SABC’s editorial policies and the legislated requirements of the Broadcast Act — with her stated goal of producing “…compelling, professional and authoritative news that tells the South African story accurately, fairly and in a balanced way in line with its editorial policies and Icasa regulations”?

Hopefully, with Qunta gone, others like Zikalala, Manga and Mzukisi Twala will soon follow.

  • http://www.obama.com Phillipa Lipinsky

    She(Qunta) has been unjustly villified simply because she dared to talk about racism. Until you have been a black woman in this deeply racist and anti-black country (South Africa) perhaps you should not be so quick to judge. I guess you prefer either the blacks who don’t talk about racism or do so only superficially. Qunta was not incompetent. She was/is a hard worker. The only reason she was unpopular is because she challenged racism and sought to erqadicate it- after all, that is what she fought for as a youngster.

  • Mark

    This marks the start of an improvement at the SABC. I have read all of Qunta’s articles and opinions of others about her, and what is evident is that she is autocratic “described by a colleague as my way or the highway Christine”, thoroughly dismissive and contemptuous towards press freedom (supported Zikalala’s blacklisting) and has ridden the race/gender magic carpet for all it’s worth. I look forward to improvements from now on.

  • http://www.youtube.com/elections2009 Siphiwo Siphiwo

    goood riddance…it was long overdue, she wont be missed!!! what are other members waiting for?
    while they’re still at it, they shouldnt forget to haul snuki with them.

    for too longm, sabc has been treated as if it’s their spaza shop…

    :(

  • http://letpeoplespeakamagama.com Lyndall Beddy

    Phillipa

    You grew up in Communist Poland. You have no real background in knowing about Africa or South Africa.

    You are not stupid – just ignorant.

    Do some reading, especially biographies. Start with the biographies of people you don’t like (Ian Smith, FW De Klerk). You will learn more from them.

  • andre

    Let’s hope Christina also stops writing those dreadful pieces in the Star! Suresh Roberts stopped – thank the Lord – so she can’t be far behind.

  • lynne

    Hopefully she and Ronald will ride off into the sunset together…never to be heard of again

  • http://Yahoo Phillipa Lipinsky

    @ Lyndall Beddy. You are starting to sound xenophobic

  • http://letpeoplespeakamagama.com Lyndall Beddy

    Traps

    You relaxed too soon pal. This whole morning was ANC propaganda on SAFM.

    First we had the future premier of Kwa Zulu Natal. At least this week it was “IF the ANC wins the elections”. Why are only the ANC premier candidates getting cover every Sunday? Why not all of the premier candidates in debate?

    Then we had the Representative of the Pan African Language Board on the Ermelo School decision – who seemed to think that English was an indigeneous African language.

    Then we had how the ANC in the Western Cape would not “abandon the poor”

    Then we had Essop Pahad on “his” new magazine “The Thinker” (Actually I am going to buy it – know your enemy!).

    And in the evening news on SABC we had how the Dalai Lama has “campaigned for decades for Tibet’s succession from China”. We know that “succession” is the communist Chinese interpretation, and the Dalai Lama is campaigning for “autonomy”.

    Do you think it enough for a constitutional court chsllenge for a rigged election?

  • http://www.thoughtleader.co.za/sarahbritten Sarah Britten

    I’d rather deal with Julius Malema than Christine Qunta. Awful, awful woman. Would it be possible for the SABC to be as bad under the Zuma regime as it has been under the Mbeki one? I cannot imagine it.

  • http://letpeoplespeakamagama.com Lyndall Beddy

    Sarah

    Why should we want either Mbeki or Zuma?

  • Paulo M

    Oh crap, missed the whole lot, damn! I haven’t watched SABC news for more than 30 seconds in probably five years. When I did change channels in the morning, there was always the reporter scratching the back of the government in return for some scratching that they where about to do. And the etv reporters, besides being decidedly hot, where actually quite soothing, and nice to listen to – as they left no turn unstoned. I’d rather watch those shitty cellphone ads.

  • Paul Whelan

    There cannot be balance under one-party rule because balance will appear as anti-govt.

    The SABC will be as bad under the Zuma regime as under Mbeki.

    Only the names will change.

  • Felas

    I hold no brief for Qunta. But one thin for sure is that any analysis of her performance or lack of it from the media will always be biased and exagerated or fairly reflected upon because of her stand against racism. In this country I have seen lousy leaders and commentators in politics held at high esteem because they avoid to face real issues such as racism. Good leaders who are hard working are villified as soon as they tackle racism because we have powerful people who have access to the media who have made it their duty to ensure that the contnued existance of racism is swept under the carpet.

  • Neuren

    I agree with Paul Whelan. I feel that Traps is being naive to think that anything will change. In fact it will probably get worse as the SABC starts soaking up public funds faster than you can say “TV Licence?”

  • Alan

    I would still rather listen to SAFM radio in the morning than anything on offer in my own country (Botswana). Despite the political meddling and censorship by ommission, you have a very fine public broadcaster. The departure of CQ will probably not change much since her replacement is likely to be another lackey anyway. At least there is a semblance of balance in SABC reporting. The news does not always start with
    “His Excellency the President”

  • Paul Whelan

    Alan

    While you are no doubt right about the media in adjacent countries, that does not alter the fact that a semblance of balance here can work as subversively as outright censorship.

    The SABC gives blanket coverage to the ANC in this election and frequently ‘balances’ it with slots given over to opposition parties whose chances of constituting any kind of opposition are zero.

    This rules out airtime for potential real opposition – COPE and the DA – but no one can accuse the SABC of not fulfilling its public mandate.