The Registrar
Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa
PO Box 412365

Dear Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa

Complaint against eNCA: double standards for black and white interviewees wearing masks, or not, whilst being interviewed

1. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) would like to ask the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) to consider a complaint pertaining to the conduct of eNews Channel Africa (eNCA), its journalist Ms Lindsay Dentlinger and the production team.

2. On Wednesday, 24 February 2021, eNCA produced a live broadcast of interviews of various politicians and commentators on the steps of Parliament directly after the delivery of the 2021 Budget.

3. Ms Dentlinger had interviewed Dr Pieter Groenewald, MP and Parliamentary Leader of the Freedom Front Plus, who had not been wearing a mask as stipulated by Covid-19 regulations . As United Democratic Movement (UDM) Deputy President Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, MP, who happens to be black, approached Ms Dentlinger to be interviewed, she insisted that he wear his mask after he had removed it to be interviewed as had his white colleague.

4. This in itself was not the problem as South Africa is dealing with Covid-19, but what the UDM believes is blatantly racist is the fact that a white person was interviewed maskless, whilst a black person was forced to wear a mask. The message to the world was: “White South Africans are “Covid-safe” and black South Africans are not.”

5. Within seconds of this happening, South Africans took to social media with a palpable outrage at this blatant display of racial discrimination. A simple search of Twitter and Facebook will reveal the extent of this righteous indignation and anger on Mr Kwankwa’s behalf.

6. What followed was the discovery that Mr Kwankwa’s experience was not an isolated incident. There were other instances where eNCA journalists forced black interviewees to wear a mask, whilst white interviewees were allowed to shirk this responsibility, as is evidenced by this video posted by Facebooker, Sakina Kamwendo:  and this Tweeter

7. eNCA has the responsibility to uphold journalistic standards of integrity and, as well as the code of conduct for broadcasters and it has fallen short. Journalists have to uphold the laws of South Africa, paramount of all the Constitution, which states that everyone has inherent dignity and the right to have their dignity respected and protected. eNCA did not respect nor protect Mr Kwankwa’s dignity.

8. In turn, it is the BCCSA’s responsibility to ensure that its members adhere to high standards in broadcasting and that broadcasting service licensees exercise exceptional care and consideration in matters involving the privacy, dignity and reputation of individuals.

9. The UDM reiterates its commitment to upholding the Covid-19 regulations, but stresses the point that double-standards based on race, as practiced by eNCA in these “mask incidents”, harks back to a time in South Africa’s history which we worked so hard to abolish.

10. The South African public expects better from their public broadcasters and journalists, they are media professionals who should not, after 26 years of liberation, fall into the trap of thoughtless, absentminded, and institutionalised racism. It is completely unforgivable in a professional environment in the New South Africa.

11. eNCA must be admonished to stop this practice of careless racism and all broadcasters be made to insist that interviewees wear masks during interviews, irrespective of their race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation and physical or mental illness or disability.

Yours sincerely
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement