Picture: MARTIN RHODES
Picture: MARTIN RHODES

THE Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) has decided to hold public hearings over the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s (SABC’s) decision to not flight a Democratic Alliance (DA) advertisement, but the authority may be bending its own rules.

On Monday afternoon was supposed to be the deadline for Icasa’s Complaints and Compliance Commission to deliver a verdict on the matter as, in terms of its own regulations, it was due to do this within 48 hours of the complaint being received. The DA had lodged the complaint on Friday.

Icasa spokesman Palesa Maleka said: "Because of the public interest in the matter we have decided to hold public hearings on April 17 at our head office."

Mr Maleka acknowledged that the authority was missing its own 48-hour deadline, but did not seem concerned. He insisted that public interest was the reason for extending the deadline for the ruling. He was adamant that Icasa had made the decision itself. The hearings will be led by Icasa councillor Ntombizodwa Ndhlovu.

DA federal council chairman James Selfe said Icasa’s regulations clearly stated that it should decide on any complaint within 48 hours of receipt.

"This means Icasa should have replied to our complaint yesterday (Monday) afternoon. Nevertheless, we will accommodate them on condition that we get a decision on that day so we may proceed with our advertising campaign," he said.

Mr Selfe said the DA’s view was that the SABC had imposed an editorial decision on a political advertisement.

The SABC pulled the DA’s "Ayisafani" advert last week. The public broadcaster informed the party that it would not be able to broadcast the advert on radio and television as it incited violence.

In the "Ayisafani" advert, the DA’s Gauteng premier candidate, Mmusi Maimane, stands in front of a mirror talking about the current state of the country.

He says life today is better than it was 20 years ago and gives credit to great leaders whom he believes have taken the country forward.

"But, since 2008, we’ve seen President Jacob Zuma’s ANC. An ANC that is corrupt. An ANC for the connected few. An ANC that is taking us backwards. An ANC where more than 1.4-million people have lost jobs." Mr Maimane then asks Mr Zuma where the jobs are.

He continues by mentioning trends in the news such as police brutality, with a photograph of a police official firing a shotgun at close range at civilians who are covering their faces, and the R246 m upgrade to Mr Zuma’s private Nkandla residence in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

The SABC has reportedly stated it would no longer continue to flight the advert as it would incite violence against the police.

Mr Selfe said the DA had made it clear to Icasa that it would not accept any further delay in this matter.

"The SABC’s decision to censor our television and radio adverts is clearly prejudicial to our election campaign and only serves to benefit the ANC," Mr Selfe said on Monday.

The DA is also up in arms over the SABC’S decision not to allow the party a slot on its SABC1 election debate on Sunday evening. The weekly programme’s topic was on land reform, which is a contentious issue in light of new amendments to laws.

DA federal chairman Wilmot James said the SABC rules stated that it should give time to parties represented in Parliament, but it had refused to allow the DA to take part in the debate.

"We are the official opposition and so we must be part of any debate on election topics," he said.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said he was not aware of that particular programme, but that "there are so many political parties that it is difficult for us to accommodate all of them".