Election Coverage 11 March 2009 – Infighting in Cope Leadership?

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Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) has monitored every democratic election in South Africa. This year we are doing the same, providing daily and weekly reports on media coverage of election news, as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings.

Top elections stories for Wednesday 11 March are:

1. Focus on comments made by Jacob Zuma.
• Beeld, p. 1 – Black Economic Empowerment (BEE);
• Beeld, p. 2 – ANC has no campaign against Pityana;
• Business Day, p. 3, absent White academics;
• Sowetan, p. 4, biased academics;
• The Citizen, p. 11 – BEE;
• The Times, p. 4 – BEE;

It was interesting to note how statements made by Zuma about BEE were reported differently. For the Citizen and Beeld, Zuma’s position on BEE appeared to be that BEE and Affirmative Action (AA) will continue indefinitely. The Times, however, reported that Zuma said that the manner in which BEE and AA is be implemented will be reviewed.

2. Comments made by Tony Leon in his speech at Tomorrow’s Leadership Convention.
• The Citizen, p. 6;
• The Times, p. 4; and,
• The Star, p. 4.
The Times and The Star stories highlighted statements that Zuma’s lack of education shouldn’t disqualify him from being president. The Citizen drew on statements that leaders should listen to dissenters.

The Business Day opinion and analysis page was notable for its rich analytical articles. One was a cautionary piece on the use of hate speech. It drew a comparison between members of the ANC calling C members snakes and cockroaches and the Rwandan genocide. In a similar vein, Sipho Seepe encouraged the ANC to engage with his (Seepe’s) statements, not caricature him. Steven Friedman challenged media assumptions about the various parties’ popularity on the basis of “sources” and unreliable opinion polls, and emphasised the primacy of voters over politicians in elections.

SABC 3 is one of various mediums that referred to the “leadership battles” inside Cope. This appears to be the result of Mvume Dandala contradicting Mosiua Lekota’s statement on a second arms-deal probe. A similar comment appeared in yesterday’s prime time news: “infighting within the party’s top brass”. There have been various comments from different media that there is a leadership crisis in Cope. What is interesting to note is that little evidence of actual leadership infighting has been provided by the media. The one clear exception was the decision around Dandala’s appointment as presidential candidate, where media did provide sources who backed up claims of infighting. If there is infighting in any political party, it must first be determined if it is newsworthy, and if it is, media need to ensure that they present clear evidence of this infighting. A failure to offer evidence may open media up to accusations of bias for unsubstantiated reporting.

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