The Democratic Alliance (DA) has called on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC ) to ensure equitable, fair and unbiased coverage of the 2021 local government elections in October.

The party says it would support an argument for increased coverage of party-political activities by the public broadcaster, but this must be done fairly, consistently and equitably for everyone.  

Shadow Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Zakhele Mbhele says the SABC has a vast footprint across the country and could play a massive role in sharing the messages of various political parties. 

He says they have noted weekend reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa wants increased coverage for the ANC on the SABC ahead of the local elections. 

Earlier this month, the SABC told parliament that the recent retrenchments would not have any impact on the broadcaster’s election coverage. 

Both the Group Chief Executive Officer, Madoda Mxakwe, and Group Executive for News, Phathiswa Magopeni, assured members of the Communications Portfolio Committee that the organisation had adequate resources to cover the elections. 

In his opening remarks, Mxakwe told parliament that the SABC took its mandate seriously and they would not be found wanting on 27 October 2021. 

“We are enjoined by the law to ensure that we provide fair, transparent and equitable coverage. At the heart of that is the alignment with our public mandate of informing (and) educating South Africans. The biggest issue is the issue of budget. We are going to have to dip into our commercial coffers to fund the elections. We do not foresee any issue,” says Magopeni.

Magopeni said the public broadcaster had an allocated budget that was equivalent to what was allocated in 2019.

“Bearing in mind that of the R29 million that we were allocated from our own annual budget, that was ring-fenced for elections, we only spent half of that amount. But we were still able to do what was required of us. What we learnt as an exercise from that is that no amount of money is going to correct defective planning,” says Magopeni. 

Video: SABC says it is ready for coverage of  the local government elections