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[1], as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings[2].

For the weekend 21 and 22 March, the NPA’s possible dropping of charges against Jacob Zuma topped the coverage in the various newspapers.  Much of the coverage was analytical and provided a range of comment on what dropping charges against Zuma would/could mean for the country. Dropping charges was widely represented as a bad option, particularly if South Africans are not informed of the reasons.

In Mail & Guardian’s Democracy 2009 supplement, gender was discussed while looking at party lists in terms of gender parity as well as how women benefit from party manifestos.  There were also opinion pieces on gender by Jessie Duarte and Pregs Govender.  The supplement provided a much needed gendered look at election issues, which has been largely absent in election coverage.  This is despite events that provided a clear platform to discuss gender dimensions of key news stories and party responses to these, including the woman seeking justice for having suffered gang rape and experiencing horrendously long delays in having the case heard in court.

Human Rights day was covered by many of the newspapers. However, it was not linked with election issues.  This is despite DA comments in support of corporal punishment, and various human rights-related manifesto items.  Human Rights day could also have provided a platform to discuss the histories of different parties around the Sharpville massacre, or how each party plans to protect the rights of each South African in policy, legislation and practice, in accordance with our constitution.  Unrelated to Human Rights Day, but very much a human rights issue, The Weekender (p. 6), pointed out that only Cope has made any statement on the crises at the Central Methodist Church.

Coverage of service delivery was quite high in the City Press, without the issues being linked to Human Rights Day.  A front page piece featured comments by Zuma on service delivery, while later pages covered his comments on housing (p. 6), grants delivery (p.5), and general service delivery (p. 30).  Much of the coverage referred to the affect of elections, as residents vowed to boycott the election for non-delivery or support the ANC for delivering services.  This was in addition to coverage of party campaigns.  Overall, if voters’ sole exposure to media was this weekend newspaper, City Press would have informed readers more than any other weekend paper for the weekend.