South Africa

HANNIBAL ELECTOR: Hlaudi, play the damn commercial!

By Richard Poplak 30 April 2014

Just when you thought P.W. Botha’s SABC had been transformed into a multicultural public broadcaster for all, Hlaudi Motsoening’s gong show reminds South Africa that when it comes to TV, the ANC insist on playing it like it was in the apartheid days. Not coming soon to a telly near you? Ayisafani 2. By RICHARD POPLAK.

The truly unbelievable has finally happened in this election—the public broadcaster has banned a Democratic Alliance infomercial twice. The second Ayisafani advert, the DA’s follow up to their blockbuster first Ayisafani advert, is so timid that it could be selling a juicer, or hair curlers. Nonetheless, SABC’s Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoening—arguably the dumbest sleazebag to ever helm a state institution in this country’s history—has presided over another trampling of South Africans’ constitutional rights to free speech.

Watch: The DA’s Ayisafani 2 advert

This isn’t about support for the DA. It’s about your voice box. I mean, just check this out:

“The DA has received notice from the SABC’s Head of Broadcast Compliance, Mr Fakir Hassen, that the SABC will not allow the DA’s second Ayisafani election TV advert to air.” Um, because? “Since the ICASA ruling on Saturday [regarding the first commercial] the DA cannot claim that “They tried to stop us” as the ruling had already effectively stopped the ad by then. They also cannot say anthing (sic) like “this is what they did not want you to see or know,” as it cannot show or refer to the same disallowed content.”

Yes, I know, you’re totally lost. Let me try explain:

Several weeks ago, the DA submitted a political commercial both to the SABC and ICASA, the South African communications sector regulator. Ayisafani was hardly inflammatory; it didn’t incite South Africans to murder; and it wasn’t selling vodka beverages to underage schoolgirls. As I mentioned in a piece a couple of days ago, it was surely not a classic of political advertising, but nor was it a dud. It just was.

And the SABC banned it.

The reasons they gave were the usual spurious nonsense: it would cause riots in Bekkersdal, or somesuch, a bit late considering the 1,300 service delivery protests that have already occurred in the country so far this year. The ad was reinstated, but the ploy served to rob the opposition party of millions of views. As Gauteng Premier hopeful Mmusi Maimane put it earlier this week, “It’s great that the ad has been watched on YouTube 500,000 times, but the SABC channels have six million viewers. We can’t afford to lose that.”

Well, that goes double for Ayisafani 2, considering that the election is only a week away. There can be absolutely no doubt at this point that the SABC has become a shill for the ANC, a sort of Pravda for a ruling party that is doing its hardest to try and outdo the apartheid regime when it comes to restricting freedom of speech. With greasy seamlessness, the SABC had moved from selling apartheid policy and keeping the ANC off air, to selling ANC policy and keeping its opponents off air. It’s the dullest, most obvious example of the liberator following in the footsteps of the oppressor, and while the SABC’s tactics are so clear they’re boring, they’re no less dangerous for it.

Julius Malema and his Fighters yesterday organised a march on the SABC’s Auckland Park officers to protest the fact that the party was not getting a fair shake. The public broadcaster had banned an EFF advert that suggested physically damaging e-toll gantries—an idea I happen to like. Nonetheless, the banning was unconstitutional, and Malema suggested that Hlaudi’s ministrations would amount to naught.

“I was once in the same position, supporting and protecting Zuma,” warned JuJu. “I was like you, I used to protect him. “I must warn you that he is going to throw you out like a used condom. Ask [Zwelinzima] Vavi and [Fikile] Mbalula. When it was time to dump us he did not think twice.”

The man gives good sound bite.

Whether Helen Zille believes that Hlaudi will end up alongside the hundred or so discarded prophylactics beside Zuma’s political bedside table, I cannot say. She did say that, “This is censorship, pure and simple.” And she’s right. The opposition party has filed an urgent application, and will fight this ruling in court.

The SABC has, with this second banning, finally and inalterably thrown away any credibility. It is not a public broadcaster, but an ANC mouthpiece paid for by the public purse. It is not a friend of the people, but an enemy of the state. Until trash like Hlaudi Motsoening are turfed from positions of power, and until such time as the SABC sweeps away all connections to the ruling party, it’s an institution that should be regarded in much the same way as it was thirty years ago: an instrument of a corrupt ruling party intent on silencing South Africans, and cancelling our rights like a bad sitcom in its seventh season. DM

Photo: A frame grab from the Ayisafani 2 ad.

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