Former public protector, Thuli Madonsela has weighed in on the controversy surrounding eNCA’s alleged inconsistent behaviour, calling on the TV news station to do better in responding to the racism allegations levelled against it.
This after eNCA faced a backlash from social media users who accused the channel of racism and unconscious bias, after its reporter Lindsay Dentlinger on Wednesday asked the UDM’s deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa to wear a mask during an interview on the 2021 budget speech, while FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald was interviewed mask-less.
— thabang350 (@Thabang_350) February 24, 2021
Other news clips have also been circulating online showing Dentlinger asking other black politicians to put on their masks, right after speaking to mask-less white politicians.
Taking to Twitter, Madonsela said eNCA had a duty to explain the discrepancy in its treatment of the two MPs.
She said addressing the situation through remedial action was not a choice between dismissal and denial.
Madonsela tweeted: @ENCA, you can do better, please do better. Your duty is to explain the discrepancy between the #MuskUp treatment of two MPs that came after each other, one white one black. Also, remedial action is not a choice between dismissal and denial #SocialJustice [SIC]”
In a statement, eNCA’s managing editor John Baily said the broadcaster met with Dentlinger and concluded her conduct “was not racially motivated or with malicious intent”. He said Dentlinger was a seasoned journalist with more than 21 years of experience and she had interviewed many high-profile politicians without anyone calling her conduct into question.
“This incident represents an inaccurate and unfair image of her work,” Baily said.
“In an intense live broadcast environment like the budget speech coverage, our journalists are under pressure to remain compliant while delivering fair, accurate, and balanced news. The journalist had to contend with being live on air and taking producer instructions via her earpiece and unfortunately failed to request that the interviewee [Groenewald] wear a mask.
“Criticism to this extent levelled at a journalist under these circumstances is unfair and unfortunate. Comments and some video content that are currently being shared is maliciously misleading.”
Despite this, Madonsela said the channel’s statement did not explain why Kwankwa and Groenewald were treated differently.
She said this left the public confused regarding the uneven treatment of the MPs.
“It only tells the public what was not the reason behind the discrepancy, leaving the public still at a loss regarding why both MPs were not asked to mask up,” Madonsela said.
Meanwhile, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said on Friday his party would lay a complaint against eNCA to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) and the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
Holomisa slammed the channel’s statement, saying it was a “slap in the face of any sober South African” who witnessed the incident.
“Instead of issuing an unreserved apology, eNCA chose to defend their and their journalist’s actions with insipid excuses,” he said. “Even the title of their statement is confounding, as it negates the crux of the matter, that the aggrieved party is Mr Kwankwa who was treated differently to his white colleagues. It adds further insult to injury that eNCA does not even have the courtesy to acknowledge Mr Kwankwa.”
Read Madonsela’s tweets and the UDM’s response below:
Your statement does not explain why the MPs were treated differently. It only tells the public what was not the reason behind the discrepancy, leaving the public still at a loss regarding why both MPs were not asked to #MaskUp #SocialJustice
— Prof Thuli Madonsela (@ThuliMadonsela3) February 26, 2021
— Bantu Holomisa (@BantuHolomisa) February 26, 2021