UPDATE: DA wins court case for live SABC coverage of Congress


The SABC has opposed the matter brought by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to the South Gauteng Court, regarding the broadcaster refusal to air the partys federal congress live on the SABC 2 platform which will take play over the weekend.

CAPE TOWN – The Democratic Alliance said on Friday night it had succeeded in a court bid to force the SABC to provide live coverage of its elective congress in Port Elizabeth at the weekend.

“The South Gauteng High Court has tonight ruled in favour of the DA, ordering the SABC to provide live coverage of our Federal Congress in Nelson Mandela Bay,” said James Selfe, the chairman of the party’s federal council.

“The SABC conceded before Judge Carelse that it had no case, by agreeing to the order sought by the DA.”

Selfe termed the outcome of the DA’s urgent court application “a victory for democracy”.

The party approached the high court in Johannesburg on the eve of its congress after learning that the public broadcaster had revoked a decision to broadcast live from the conference from 10.30 to 12.30 on Saturday morning.

Selfe said the DA went to court because it believed coverage of the event was in the public interest.

Asked whether the SABC did not enjoy editorial independence, he said it did but noted that it was not an independent broadcaster but one operating within a statutory framework and the party believed that the elective congress of the official opposition was a matter of public interest and should not only be screened on pay channels.

James said SABC executives had undertaken on March 20 that SABC2 would screen two-hours of direct footage from the congress.

Moreover, it had expressed interest in doing another live broadcast on Sunday after Helen Zille announced in April that she would not seek re-election as party leader, though it did not make a firm commitment to do so.

James said the DA did not see the SABC’s change of heart as vindictive, though it is happening against the backdrop of the party’s legal battle to secure the suspension of SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng in line with adverse findings against him by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela.

Instead, he said, the party saw it as a sign of the broadcaster being beholden to the Zuma administration.

“I think it is another manifestation of the capture of the State by (President) Jacob Zuma. They will do anything to promote the Zuma faction and limit the exposure of anybody else.”

He said the party was expecting a court decision late on Friday night as 1425 delegates gathered in Port Elizabeth to elect a new leader and federal chairman. The outcome will be known around lunchtime on Sunday.

DA parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane is seen as likely to defeat outgoing federal chairman Wilmot James in the leadership contest, while Eastern Cape leader Athol Trollip is the favourite to become the next federal chairman.





- Additional reporting by ANA

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