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.