News anchors Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton have not been on air since Tuesday morning, but eNCA insists that they have not been suspended.
This, despite several social media claims to the contrary, such as from Talk Radio 702 host Eusebius McKaiser, which some news outlets have reported on. eNCA has, however, dismissed the claims.
On Tuesday, Mngambi and Dutton issued an on-air apology for comments made during an eNCA news broadcast on Monday that implied that Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma had undermined President Cyril Ramaphosa’s authority when banning the sale of tobacco during Level 4 of the national Covid-19 lockdown.
Mngambi and Dutton said in a “very public show of force” Dlamini-Zuma showed “who’s controlling South Africa’s narrative right now – not the president, but… Dlamini-Zuma”.
They added that Dlamini-Zuma used her “power and considerable influence” to ensure the ban would continue, calling South Africa a “police state under the control of renegade ministers and the security forces”.
On Tuesday morning, at the start of the 7am broadcast, Mngambi and Dutton apologised “unreservedly”.
“Yesterday (Monday) we made a rather unfortunate judgment on the president and… Dlamini-Zuma. Singling her out on the decision, as if it were her own, was unfair and unwarranted, especially after… Ramaphosa provided clarity on the matter,” Dutton said.
Before proceeding to the day’s headlines, Mngambi said: “We have earned your trust and we’re not about to disappoint you now. At a time when the president and his team are leading us through difficult times in our country, again, we apologise unreservedly to you, Mr President; you, Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma; and indeed, the nation.”
Mngambi and Dutton have not been on air since, leading to speculation that they had been suspended. Instead, the morning slot has been anchored by Tony Ndoro and Tumelo Mothotoane.
In a curt statement, eNCA MD Norman Ndivhuho Munzhelele said: “eNCA anchors Jane Dutton and Xoli Mngambi have not been suspended. This is an internal matter and remains between the employer and employees. The employer wishes to respect the rights of the employees in this regard.”
Mngambi’s and Dutton’s remarks were made against the backdrop of the government’s about-turn on the sale of tobacco during the Level 4 lockdown, which started on 1 May.
Last Thursday, Ramaphosa announced the country would exit the Covid-19 lockdown in a phased manner, saying the sale of tobacco, which was banned during Level 5, would be allowed during Level 4, which came into effect on Friday, News24 reported.
However, when Dlamini-Zuma later announced the regulations for Level 4, smokers’ hopes that they would soon light up a legally obtained cigarette went up in flames.
She said the sale of tobacco products would remain banned under Level 4.
This led to speculation that Ramaphosa might have been undermined by his political opponents in the ANC.
However, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu tweeted on Friday: “The NCCC (National Coronavirus Command Council) changed its own view on the selling of tobacco on Level 4 of the lockdown, which was pronounced by the president. The president fully agreed and endorsed the non-sale of tobacco as an outcome of the consultation process.
“Any suggestions that the president was undermined by members of his Cabinet are tantamount to falsehoods and misleading of the public. It’s clear that some lobbyists will use and do anything to get their way.”
In his weekly newsletter, Ramaphosa wrote that the NCCC took a “collective decision” on the matter.
“After careful consideration and discussion, the [NCCC] reconsidered its position on tobacco. As a result, the regulations ratified by Cabinet and announced by Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma on 29 April extended the prohibition,” wrote the president.
The comments Mngambi and Dutton made drew widespread criticism from, among others, the ANC Women’s League and the ANC National Youth Task Team.