Election coverage for Wednesday 8 April continued to be about the NPA’s announcement on the dropping of charges against Jacob Zuma, the reaction from other political parties, and what it means for the country. A substantial amount of the news in the newspapers was devoted to this. This was less so for television news.
Also fairly widely covered was the contract renewal of Snuki Zikalala, head of SABC news. His contract is up for renewal at the end of April and may be renewed before the next board replaces the current board. This would be against the ANC’s wishes, according to an ANC statement. Although not framed as an election story, it is clear that the timing of the removal of the board is likely to closely coincide with the re-election of the ANC government.
• Business Day, p. 3;
• Sowetan, p. 4; and,
• The Citizen, p. 4.
Interestingly, SABC 3’s 19:00 bulletin did not cover this story.
There were also a number of election stories which would confuse audience members in various media. In the SABC 3 bulletin, a serious statement by Fikile Mbulula was made; that Zille will make Cape Town the racist capital of the world, with no context provided nor a response by Zille Any allegation of racism is serious and it is deeply concerning that neither Helen Zille nor an appropriate spokesperson were given space to respond to the allegation (item 6). While such statements may make interesting news, it is imperative that such allegations are contextualised. In another item, Wesley Kgang, Cosas’ (the Congress of South African Students) President, said they would remove, “any other Mickey Mouse posters, … except the ANC, we are going to remove them.” Not only do such threats limit freedom of expression but they also display a concerning lack of tolerance. In addition to this, the threats clearly violate the electoral code. However, theses facts are not mentioned, nor is the IEC apparently approached for comment on what the consequences of such action could be. The ANC is also not given the opportunity to say how it will address the problem. (item 8).
A confusing story appeared in The Citizen, which appeared to be about race being “one of the powerful factors driving voters in an election.” The Sapa story quotes a researcher from the Institute for Security Studies, stressing that social factors shape votes. Race is raised in the first line of the article and not addressed again. It would seem the story was heavily edited to that extent that it leaves the reader wondering as to the relevance of race in the context of other social factors (The Citizen “Race moves voters”, p. 6).
The etv election bus story (in Welkom) raised issues of access to water, sewage flowing down streets and “Whites” needing to sub-divide their houses because of economic challenges. Regrettably, the piece didn’t show any of these things or speak with any of the residents directly affected, with only the reporter being shown surrounded by supporters of ANC and Cope (item 4).
To some degree it may be expected that less detail would be provided in television news items than print, the items discussed above serve to highlight how in the case of the item in the Citizen and on etv viewers would be confused by the lack of detail. In the case of the reports on SABC 3 democracy threatening comments are not contextualised and go unchallenged which indicates not only a failure to educate viewers but may also result in people believing that removing party posters is acceptable, or that making allegations of racism is simply electioneering.
For more information please contact Sandra Roberts on 084 9000 344 or 011 788 1278 or William Bird on 082 887 1370.
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Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has monitored every democratic election in South Africa. This year we are doing the same, providing daily and weekly reports on media coverage of election news, as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings
The following media are reviewed in the compilation of this report: Business Day, Daily Sun, etv primetime news; SABC 3 primetime news; Sowetan, The Citizen, and The Star and The Times.