- The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has suspended sports presenter James Shikwambane for exchanging words with Sports Minister Ngconde Balfour on his 26 May 2003 show. Two days later, the 'Mungana Lonene FM' sports presenter received a letter of suspension.
Mr Shikwambane had phoned Minister Balfour directly to ask him whether he had a hand in appointing the national soccer team's coach for a game against England. According to interview transcripts, Mr Shikwambane first apologised for calling the Minister instead of the Ministry's official spokesperson.
The SABC sports journalist also told the Minister that the conversation was being recorded for broadcast purposes, according to information from the Windhoek-based media watchdog Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA).
South African Minister Balfour thus had referred the presenter to the Ministry's spokesperson before hanging up the telephone. Mr Shikwambane contacted Graham Abraham, the Ministry's spokesperson, and put the same questions to him.
According to MISA, Mr Abraham thereupon had told Mr Shikwambane that his questions did not make sense before hanging up the telephone. Mr Shikwambane then opened the phone lines and listeners complained about the behaviour of the Minister and his spokesperson.
Some listeners suggested that the Minister might have behaved in such a manner because XiTsonga listeners are marginalised by SABC. XiTsonga and Thsivenda are the only languages, out of 11 official languages, which are not catered to by the public broadcaster.
The conversation with listeners and criticism of SABC and government officials are believed to have angered SABC officials and led to the presenter's suspension.
Mr Abraham later denied that he was interviewed and that he was aware that the conversation was being recorded for broadcast. He also confirmed that he personally reported the presenter to the SABC and that there would be an inquiry into the matter.
Meanwhile, SABC officials say Mr Shikwambane's suspension came after a complaint from a member of the public about the way the presenter handled himself on the show.
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