In a clip that has gone viral FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald is interviewed without a mask. When UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa arrives for his turn to be interviewed he is requested to put on his mask. Picture: eNCA/YouTube/Screenshot
In a clip that has gone viral FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald is interviewed without a mask. When UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa arrives for his turn to be interviewed he is requested to put on his mask. Picture: eNCA/YouTube/Screenshot

BCCSA dismisses racism complaint against eNCA over mask issue

By Sihle Mlambo Time of article published Mar 19, 2021

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Johannesburg - The Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa has dismissed 11 complaints against eNCA and journalist Lindsay Dentlinger for its Budget Speech coverage.

The complaints centred around the fact that the broadcaster had asked black people to wear masks during on-air interviews, while it allowed white people to speak without masks.

Dentlinger had asked UDM deputy president Nqabayomzi Kwankwa to wear his mask shortly after she had interviewed the FF+ president Pieter Groenewald, who was interviewed not wearing a mask.

Kwankwa had been wearing his mask and removed it shortly before being interviewed. He was asked to wear it again.

The BCCSA found that there was no indication that the reporter’s request to Mr Kwankwa to keep his mask on advocated hatred based on race against black people.

“The broadcast has caused offence, as evidenced by these complaints before the BCCSA, but the broadcaster did not contravene Clause 10.3 of the Code.

“The BCCSA recognises past injustices that have led to sensitivity towards matters that involve race. “Nevertheless, as shown above, the facts of this matter do not justify an inference of the advocacy of hatred against black people.

“Some of the complainants have alleged that the broadcast impaired the dignity of black people.

“There are several inferences that a reasonable viewer could have drawn from the broadcast, the most obvious of which was that current regulations demand that precautions must be taken to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“After considering all the facts, it is found that the broadcaster did not contravene the Code. The complaints are accordingly not upheld,” said the BCCSA.

The BCCSA interrogated whether Dentlinger’s request to wear a mask was justified an inference of racial discrimination or advocacy of hatred based on race.

The mask issue has been a bone of contention for the broadcaster, with the ANC in February staging pickets at eNCA offices around the country.

eNCA has also received hostile treatment from protesting university students, who have squared up with reporters and production crew, even attempting to block them from covering their protests. In some instances, students have refused to speak with eNCA.

Meanwhile, eNCA’s managing director, Norman Munzhelele said they were satisfied with the judgment.

“eNCA understands how our reporter’s coverage created a space for general public conjecture and are sorry that her behaviour was perceived to be racist and offended viewers.

“However, we reiterate that our internal investigation found, like the BCCSA did, that her conduct was not racially motivated.

“We remain committed to providing fair and balanced news irrespective of race, colour or creed,” he said.

Meanwhile, UDM leader Bantu Holomisa took to Twitter and said Parliament should suspend eNCA from the Parliamentary Press Gallery until they apologised to Kwankwa.

He said the party and UDM had been in contact in a bid to resolve the matter.

In a letter, posted on the party’s website, Holomisa said the broadcaster had taken a “patronising” and “denialist” stance and it appeared they had no interest in resolving the matter.

“You argue that eNCA plays a critical role in nation building and social cohesion, yet eNCA still refuses to acknowledge that what happened on 24 February 2021, to UDM Deputy President Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, and on other occasions to other black interviewees, are perceived by millions of sober South Africans as blatant racism.

“Why does eNCA refuse to understand that Mr Kwankwa feels demeaned as a black South African by the treatment he received initially at Ms Dentlinger’s hands, and now at the hands of the entire company?

“Why does eNCA insist on being so stubbornly tone-deaf to the implications of this incident, and even now by the denialist content of your letter?” Holomisa wrote.

Holomisa said although Dentlinger had offered an apology, they were concerned that eNCA had attempted to justify the mask gaffe by defending themselves in a press statement.

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