DA condemns Minister Ndabeni- Abrahams’s actions of censoring journalists

Issued by Phumzile Van Damme MP – DA Shadow Minister of Communications
10 Feb 2019 in News

Please find attached a soundbite by the DA Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile Van Damme MP.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) is not surprised by reports that Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni – Abrahams blocked journalists from covering protests at an African National Congress (ANC) manifesto launch in the Eastern Cape. It is what the ANC has done for years, only this time the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) took a stand to enforce its independence and expose Ndabeni-Abrahams, and for that, we congratulate the SABC.

The manifesto proceedings were reportedly disrupted by singing demonstrators who are allegedly frustrated by a lack of service delivery in their area.

Minister Ndabeni- Abrahams blocked an SABC crew from filming protesters who were raising their dissatisfaction with her party’s failures.

This attempted act of censorship by the Communications Minister is against the constitutional values of freedom of the press. The DA stands by and supports the freedom of the press which is enshrined in our Constitution.

The Minister’s actions are no different from previous ANC Ministers who have sought to control the SABC through political interference. Her act is not a once off or a mistake, she was simply doing what the ANC has been doing for years, and were allowed to by captured SABC management and boards. We applaud the SABC for taking a firm stand and encourage it to report any attempts of persecution by the ANC for simply doing what is required of the SABC as an independent public broadcaster, not ANC mouthpiece.

At centre of the SABC’s problems is political interference, this combined with the deliberate delay in beginning the process of appointing a new board, speaks to their intentions to once again control the SABC. We note that in the latest Z-list (Parliament’s list of scheduled meetings), no Communications Committee meetings have been scheduled, yet another delaying tactic by the ANC.

The ANC would prefer an interim board be appointed with cadres who would be at their beck and call. This may come as news to the ANC, but to appoint an interim board would require the removal of the current one, by inquiry. There are no grounds for a dissolution, so no interim board can be appointed.

The DA will not be party to the ANC’s dereliction of their constitutionalist duty as elected public representatives, and will use all avenues available to ensure that a full permanent board is appointed, even if it means the Communications Portfolio Committee works after Parliament has risen, and a Special Sitting is called to approve the names of candidates recommended to serve on the SABC board.

The role of the media can never be understated, it can play an important role in the advancement of democratic values by informing citizens of the issues that affect them on a daily basis. The DA believes that this acts of censorship by the communication minister must be reprimanded by all who believe in a free, open and fair society.