Election Coverage 25 February 2009 – Malemaphilia or Otherwise?

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Media Monitoring Africa has monitored every democratic election in South Africa. This year we are doing the same, providing daily reports on media coverage of election news[1], weekly reports as well as MMA’s Election Media Ratings.

Top stories for Wednesday the 25 February are:

1. Julius Malema’s various statements topped the day’s stories.

The ‘verbal tussle’ with Helen Zille continued to feature prominently. Malema apparently said that Zille adopted a ‘Michael Jackson’ approach to politics. However, none of the stories monitored offered any explanation as to what “Michael Jackson-policies” might be.
• Business Day, p. 3;
• The Citizen, p. 3; and,
• Times, p. 4.

Malema also called Dandala a leader for hire:
• Beeld, p. 13
• The Star, p. 1; and,
• The Times, p. 4.

Comments about the Constitutional case to stop Zuma from becoming president also featured:
• Business Day, p. 3;
• Sowetan, p. 4;
• The Citizen, p. 3; and,
• The Star, p. 1.

Comments about Zille’s reference to Malema being uncircumcised also featured in various reports. Previously it was reported that Zille had called Malema an “inkwenkwe” in reponse to Malema having called her a racist. However, The Star quotes Zille explaining her comment as being in response to Malema’s insulting Joe Seremane, who is older than Malema and deserving of respect. (Star p. 1).

Comments about Malema, “taking another shot,” (Citizen p. 3) or being “at it again” (The Times p. 4) or ‘Stoops to new low” (The Star p. 1) all clearly negatively frame Malema and what he says. While his previous statements may well have warranted such a negative framing, the onus on media is greater in an election period media need to be fair.  In this regard, media should be particularly cautious around their choice of words during elections.

2. Dandala’s nomination as president of Cope was covered in:

• Beeld, p. 14 (editorial);
• The Citizen, p 4, 12; and,
• The Star, p. 6.

Malema’s comments and images of him dominated the elections headlines. Many of the comments Malema made are quoted without apparently accessing those about whom he was commenting for a reply. It is likely that subsequent responses to Malema’s retort will be covered on Thursday. Malema as a ‘weapon of mass distraction’ was covered in The Times editorial (p. 18), and the central point made in the editorial would seem to be supported by the coverage of the day focusing on Malema. The question arises as to what role the media themselves are playing in enabling Malema to serve as a “weapon of mass distraction” by giving him unequalled coverage and comments on other parties.

A particular concern for MMA were Malema’s reported comments that women are not allowed to speak about circumcision, and that Zille can only speak about circumcision if she knew about it directly (had knowledge of Malema’s private parts). (The Star, The Times). As a country in which gender equality is guaranteed by the constitution, these comments need to be challenged by gender organisations and the media. Debates surrounding “cultural practice” vs. gender equality should be expanded upon and political parties views on these should be communicated to South Africans by the media. Malema’s comments highlighted through the media seem to not only refer unnecessarily to Zille’s gender, but (together with comments about Zille’s husband, reported previously) also draw attention to Zille’s sexuality. The question that needs to be asked is, if it had been a man who had called Malema an “inkwenkwe” would the man’s sexual partner (or experience with other men’s penises) have been commented on in the same manner.

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For more information please contact Sandra Roberts on 084 9000 344 or 011 788 1278 or William Bird on 082 887 1370.

The Daily Reports are made possible by Open Society Foundation.

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1. The following media are reviewed in the compilation of this report: Beeld; Business Day; e-tv primetime news; SABC 3 primetime news; Sowetan; The Citizen; The Star; The Times.
2. Please note our full-scale elections monitoring is still in process.  Let us know if you would like your media to be included in the analysis.

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