Johannesburg - The battle for voters’ hearts and minds is in full swing, with the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) and the Electoral Court being asked to rule on the legality of messages and adverts aimed at the 25 million South Africans registered to vote in the upcoming May 7 poll.
If the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) wants to have its election campaign broadcast on SABC, it will have to amend its message urging voters to physically remove the e-tolls.
Alternatively, they can shoot a completely new public election broadcast and submit it to the SABC, according to a decision by Icasa.
The party had taken the public broadcaster to the authority’s compliance and complaints committee saying it had acted unlawfully by contravening the Regulations on Party Election Broadcasts.
Authority spokesman Paseka Maleka said: “The complaints and compliance committee found that the broadcast was in contravention of the authority’s regulations, as it purports lawlessness. They either need to come up with a new PEB, or they can amend the existing one.”
Party spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said the EFF had received the ruling and would march to the SABC on Tuesday in response.
Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the SABC’s acting chief operations officer, welcomed the authority’s decision.
“We are happy that our decisions were deemed correct by the broadcasting regulator. These decisions nullify the allegations made that the SABC was not partial in its decision-making and was compelled by external parties. This is also an indication that the SABC upholds its editorial independence and editorial policies,” he said.
The ruling comes just one day after the authority’s compliance committee ruled against the DA, which will also have to remove “misleading image” of a police office pointing a firearm at a citizen from its advert.
The DA’s advert, featuring its Gauteng premier candidate, Mmusi Maimane, includes an image of a police officer pointing a firearm at two men. It also includes the words “the police are killing our people”.
On Saturday Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa welcomed the authority’s ruling, saying the DA’s advertisement seemed designed to drive a wedge between the police and the community, and was completely reprehensible.
“The truth is that the SAPS plays a huge role in peacefully protecting South Africans,” said Mthethwa.
He explained that the image was taken from an illegal and violent protest in Bekkersdal, where the police had to restore public order to protect the lives of law-abiding citizens and their property.
The minister said the advert implied police were killing people when neither of the people shown in the image was shot or injured and the police did not use live ammunition.
“That ad is just plain wrong, and I deplore this misleading portrayal of the police as being untrue and unfair.”
However, Maimane said they would be taking the decision on review in the high court.
He said it was an injustice and it was not right for conversation and commentary to be restrained.
Brand specialist Thebe Ikalafeng said it was important to contextualise the adverts.
He said that, based on where the country had come from, saying something encouraged violence was a good excuse.
He said there were two assumptions around violence.
The first was that it was a bad reality because it reminded us of where we came from. The second assumption was that South Africans were not sophisticated enough to understand that it was only an advertisement.
However, in the rest of the world it was normal for political parties to make provocative, comparative and competitive statements in their efforts to win over voters.
“You have to remember that these parties are fighting three things in the consumer’s mind: loyalty to a specific party, race and economics,” he said.
In terms of race, Ikalafeng explained that there had been clear correlations between races that vote for specific parties.
He said that the EFF and the DA, despite the rulings against them, could not “care less” about these broadcasts being aired. What was important for them was that the contested messages would be talked about by voters.
The controversy would also distract their opponents from focusing on their own election agendas. The EFF’s rejected advert has already received over 800 000 views on YouTube.
Maleka said it had been a busy week for the authority.
A third complaint was received by the authority’s complaints and compliance committee from the First Nation Liberation Alliance that the SABC would not broadcast its public election broadcast either.
Maleka said that, as soon as the committee received the complaint, it wrote to the SABC for its reasons, which were essentially that the broadcast contained elements of racism.
The committee then forwarded the response to the party and asked if it was satisfied with the explanation, or if further action should be taken. But it did not respond and the complaint was closed.
On Friday, the Electoral Court reserved judgment in the case brought by the ANC against the DA over its SMS sent to about 1.6 million potential voters in Gauteng claiming President Jacob Zuma stole the R246m spent by his government on security upgrades at his Nkandla homestead.