The state broadcaster came under fire this week when civil rights group Afriforum claimed it had refused to flight an advert critical of the African National Congress. This came against the back-drop of several broadcasters’ reported decisions to reject a Nando’s advert. Fienie Grobler interviewed both SABC communications chief Kaizer Kganyago, and Afriforum’s deputy chief executive, Ernst Roets.
The Afriforum media statement dropped into inboxes on Monday afternoon. “SABC rejects AfriForum ad, says it reflects negatively in the ANC,” its headline stated.
Roets said in the statement that the SABC had declined to flight the clip, called ‘ANC, the Conmen’, because “the video was too negative towards the ANC and that they [SABC] were prohibited from screening material that casts any political party in a bad light”.
But Kganyago, spokesman for the state broadcaster, dismissed Afriforum’s claims, saying the whole saga was nothing more than a publicity stunt.
He accused Afriforum of “jumping onto the bandwagon”, in reference to Nando’s hitting headlines in the morning. The Cape Times reported that a Nando’s advert had been pulled by the SABC because it had a xenophobic undertone.
Kganyago said Afriforum had sent the SABC an email in April with a link to the video, “and told us to look at it”.
Afriforum said, “You [SABC] can look at the link and tell us if you want to use it…”.
“This is not following process,” said Kganyago.
He added that the SABC told Afriforum it should advertise its own services, instead of making an advert criticising others.
“For example, if you are Mercedes, you can’t say in an advert, ‘Don’t buy BMW’.”
Afriforum’s Roets said Kganyago needed to get his facts right.
“We followed the process they told us to follow.”
He met with an SABC official and the price for flighting the advert and when it would be broadcast were negotiated in April, said Roets.
“They told us they needed to check the advert first. On April 16, SABC informed us they that could not go ahead with it.”
Roets said Afriforum only received the reason for the decision at the end of last week.
“We received an email saying it cannot be flighted because it was putting the ANC down, and that the SABC cannot be seen doing this to any party.”
The two-minute long advert, which has been posted on Afriforum’s website and social networking sites, asks its members to sign a petition “against the ANC’s plan to fundamentally change the Constitution”. Afriforum said it believed the right to private property ownership was under threat.
The video contains sound bytes of both former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk, and broken quotes from the ANC’s policy discussion documents.
It says, among other things, “The ANC is breaking the peace agreement”, and “Take a stand against the New ANC”.
Roets said it was a coincidence that Afriforum released a media statement on the matter on Monday, the same day the story about the Nando’s ad being withdrawn was in the news.
“We received the SABC’s reasons at the end of last week. Then it was weekend, and we responded on Monday. To be honest, I did not even know about the Nando’s ad when I sent the statement,” said Roets.
On the Nando’s advert, Kganyago said the SABC would have been irresponsible to broadcast it.
The commercial questions xenophobia and starts with a voice-over that says: “You know what’s wrong with South Africa? It’s all you foreigners.” Then it shows different nationalities disappearing in a puff of smoke, and ends with only one person left – a Khoisan, who says: “I’m not going anywhere. You [apparent swear word] found us here.”
Kganyago said there was a risk that not all viewers would understand the irony.
“The people fighting over service delivery… they really do believe foreigners are a problem. We [the SABC] are not going to be a vehicle for that [xenophobia].”
On Tuesday night, television journalist Thinus Ferreira reported on News24 that both e.tv and DStv had also decided against flighting the Nando’s advert.
Ferreira quoted DSTV media sales CEO Chris Hitchings as saying: “Whilst we understand that the commercial is a parody, we are not convinced that all our viewers will interpret it in the way intended.”
Fienie Grobler is news editor at the South African Press Association.