By Santosh Beharie
The cameraman at the centre of a row over footage of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka being booed by a crowd on Women's Day not being screened by SABC has lashed out at the public broadcaster and its rival, e.tv, for using him as a pawn.
Sanjay Singh of Newcastle, a contract camera operator with the SABC for 10 years, said on Saturday that while the two television stations had locked horns over his presence at the rally in KwaZulu-Natal, he was living in fear after having received strange phone calls.
"At the end of the day I am getting a raw deal from this whole thing. I have been advised by my lawyers not to do anything until this matter is settled with the SABC," he said.
Politicians and e.tv have asked the SABC for an explanation after e.tv aired footage on Wednesday showing that Singh was present when Mlambo-Ngcuka was booed on August 9 - despite an SABC denial.
In an apology to its viewers last week, the SABC released a statement blaming an unnamed freelance cameraman for failing to film the crowd "because he was late". However, on e.tv news, Singh was shown carrying his camera and filming the jeering pro-Jacob Zuma supporters at the rally in Utrecht.
E.tv's national news editor, Patrick Conroy, said their footage of the event showed Singh had arrived on time and had filmed the incident.
"We therefore felt that the SABC needed to explain to the public why its own version of events seems to contradict the fact," Conroy said.
Paul Setsetse, the SABC spokesperson, then accused e.tv's report of creating the perception that the public broadcaster was a fraud, adding that e.tv was bitter because the public broadcaster had announced it had made a R240-million profit on Tuesday.
He admitted to a Johannesburg radio station later this week that the SABC was aware that its cameraman had been on time for the job, but said the broadcaster had not intentionally misled the public. He said he had reported what the freelancer had told them.
"We have since terminated whatever relationship we had with him. We had no intention to hide or cover up this incident. We even reported a similar incident four days ago when students from KwaZulu-Natal walked out on the deputy president."
He added that if the camera operator had filmed the incident, the SABC was not in possession of the footage.
Singh on Saturday denied telling the SABC that he was late and said that the "footage was fed and whatever happened after that is their problem".
"The SABC spokesman has reportedly said that my contract was terminated with the SABC because I was late, but neither he nor anyone else from the SABC has had the courtesy of contacting me to tell me this to this day. They are just going on assumptions.
"The story that I was not there is lies," said Singh. He said the e.tv report showing that he had been at the rally had done him "a bit of harm as well as good".
The camera operator said he was getting "funny" calls from people who accused him of being personally responsible, suggesting he had deliberately not sent the footage to the SABC because of his own political agenda.