- Row over the publication of the South African Health Minister’s medical records has turned sour, with the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) breaking ranks with South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF).
In a letter to the forum, the SABC said it had withdrawn membership from SANEF until the issues raised in the letter have been dealt with.
The SABC said it saw no reason why “we are being made a whipping boy and a scapegoat by the profit-driven media. Even less are we prepared to associate with the enemies of our freedom and our people."
"We cannot remain quiet while our mothers and our democratically chosen leaders are stripped naked for the sole reason of selling newspapers.”
The SABC said its withdrawal was justified by "epidemic deterioration of journalistic ethics within your ranks and disrespect for our people.”
For some time, relations between the SABC and SANEF have been strained. However, the forum’s new leadership has been doing all it can to normalise the relations. In fact, SANEF Chairperson, Jovial Rantao held a meeting with the SABC Chief Executive Officer, Dali Mpofu last week.
The SABC is so far the largest media organisation in Africa. SANEF is largely funded by corporate donations and funding from major media organisations, including the SABC.
Rantao confirmed receipt of the letter but promised to discuss its content with the SABC in a meeting.
The opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has also joined the fray, with its mouthpiece, Dene Smuts accusing the SABC of abandoning "all pretence at professionalism and impartiality.”
"The proposal of the board to break away from Sanef defies the commitment to accountability on the part of those holding public office, to the right of the public to be informed, and to freedom of expression," she said.
"Instead of dealing with this issue and holding the minister to account, the SABC has been showing on some news bulletin footage the minister sitting beautifully dressed and coiffured at her desk, apparently in full command of her faculties and portfolio.
"It is Dali Mpofu who is delinquent, not Sunday Times editor Mondli Makhanya," Smuts said.
In his weekly letter, President Thabo Mbeki, saluted medical experts at Johannesburg General Hospital for conducting a “successful liver transplant operation” on Tshabalala-Msimang.
He said the successful operation contradicted the “false and negative propaganda that some have striven very hard to propagate in this regard, we should, as a nation, celebrate a brilliant achievement of our medical practitioners which, anywhere else in the world, would be acclaimed and promoted as cause for the open expression of genuinely unqualified national pride.”
Mbeki said the hospitalisation of Ms Tshabalala “will have taught us that our value system is changing towards an ugly and inhumane direction. In this regard, views were expressed and a campaign waged essentially to convey the brutal message that everybody concerned, including the doctors who treated her, should have allowed Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to die.”
He had broken the ANC’s tradition of not publicly celebrating the movement‘s heroes and heroines until they die.
“I knew her and of her more than 45 years ago, when she was a student at Fort Hare and a member of the ANC Youth League. I went into exile with her, in 1962, when we, young adherents of the ANC and militants of the national liberation movement, obeyed the command of the ANC to go abroad to study, which was conveyed to me personally by Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela, Govan Mbeki and Duma Nokwe.”
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