Lukhona Mnguni pens open letter to eNCA about Kanthan Pillay
Dear Jeremy Maggs,
The year 2019 has been one filled with great political events, some bordering on being a spectacle while others sought to inspire confidence in the country that is South Africa.
We have been at many lows as a country, especially if attention is paid to economic indicators such as GDP growth, unemployment statistics, and voter turnout at the 2019 NPE etc. Yet, we have been inspired by the gains made by the Springboks and Zozibini Tunzi. Many other South Africans made remarkable achievements in other areas of sports and entertainment, including coffee barista Teddy Nzama who was recognised on an international stage as the best barista for Starbucks globally. All these news and others are conveyed to us, members of society, through the media in all its various platforms.
It is for this reason that safeguarding the independence, efficiency, functionality and integrity of the media rests on all of society. The recent developments at eNCA have not inspired confidence. There have been problems at your establishment for a very long time now. Some of these have driven seasoned reporters and anchors out of your stable. The truth is that you are not alone, generally newsrooms across the country have plenty corrosive group dynamics fueled by inflated egos of managers and anchors who believe the country owes them something. I have observed these dynamics quietly over the years with growing proximity to editors, anchors, journalists, producers and managers in the media space.
eNCA has branded itself as a platform that reports without fear or favour, supposedly making the viewer believe that they are receiving independent and impartial news without bias. The realisation of this noble intent is highly dependent on the personnel that drive the eNCA newsroom. Such personnel walk around eNCA corridors carrying virtue or inadequacies of gross bias, depending on which school of thought they hail from. Our backgrounds, politics and ideologies are all part of shaping us as a people. It is important to constantly hold power to account, this must be done across all sectors; especially the media which curates information that is available to the public on the mainstream easy to access platforms.
I was taken aback when the rumour emerged in October 2019 that eNCA had hired Kanthan Pillay as the Director of News.
This is because just a few months prior to that, he had attempted to contest the 2019 National and Provincial Elections under the auspices of the Capitalist Party of South Africa.
This is an ideological viewpoint I have never been able to reconcile myself with. As a student of political science and political economy, the damages and devastations of global capitalism are glaring for all to see. It is those people who are idealistic about the virtues of capitalism that continue to give space to this ideological orientation without robustly challenging its assumption of how human relation and modes of production relative to nation building should be set up. For this reason, given the contested nature of the newsroom, eNCA should never have given space to Kanthan Pillay who has chosen such a retrogressive ideological viewpoint. He can be given a platform to express himself and be challenged but he cannot be trusted with the leadership responsibility to curate news to the public. It’s simple: his ideological viewpoint could tamper with the substance of news we receive. Effectively, he can censor the entire news value chain, from the assignments your reporters are given to the questions we are asked as political analysts.
I operate in a space that marvels at the ability to exercise academic freedom. I believe the freedom of expression of a journalist must be held to the most supreme of standards. The tweets that led to the suspension of Khayelihle Khumalo are at best a sign of a journalist keeping himself informed and expressing the information to those who follow him on Twitter. That eNCA management had chosen not to broadcast the EFF’s National People’s Assembly did not take away from the freedom of expression of its employees. To be relevant, the employees would still need to keep themselves informed and find a way to access the EFF NPA outside of the broadcaster they work for. As a result Khumalo was right to find other avenues to stay informed. Tweeting about it was merely his form of expression; he is not eNCA, he is a part of eNCA.
The alleged conduct of Kanthan Pillay towards Samkele Maseko, upon his resignation, is deplorable and must be condemned with the seriousness it deserves. It seems Pillay, coming into a newsroom with longstanding problems predating Nontobeko Sibisi and Phakamile Hlubi, is driving a wedge that is dealing with eNCA’s desire to be an independent and impartial news channel. His desire to label those he disagrees with says a lot about his inability to tolerate disagreement. The sincerity of his apology is moot.
I have known Pillay to be fairly condescending in his approach to others and believing in his individual brilliance as being much more supreme than those he is charged to work with. His Capitalistic views in the build up to the 2019 NPE were the final nail in the coffin. For this reason, it is impossible to reconcile myself with an eNCA whose news agenda is led by so bigoted an individual who seems to soil, at every given instance, on the integrity of others.
Until eNCA rids itself of this newly found virus that threatens to malign the channel, I will not be available to give political analysis to the channel. We must endeavour to speak truth to power at all times. Kanthan Pillay must leave eNCA for the channel to attempt rebuilding its credibility and forge ahead with a transformative agenda in how it delivers news.
* Lukhona Mnguni is a political analyst and an alumni of the University of KwaZulu-Natal. He is a PhD intern at the Maurice Webb Race Relations Unit at UKZN.
** The views expressed herein are not necessarily the views of Independent Media.