SABC3 unashamedly promotes COPE as its party of choice, contrary to its own policy of partisanship. According to SABC logic, the ANC, as the majority party, under Mbeki was given proportionally more time than all the other parties. With the advent of COPE, this ‘policy’ no longer holds. As an opposition party-in-the-making, COPE enjoys much more coverage than the ruling party, and any other opposition party for that matter, simply because it is run by Mbeki’s defectors.
For example, on Sunday’s 7 o’ clock news (14 Dec) COPE was given 6 minutes news coverage, as opposed to the ANC’s three minutes. Thereafter on the SABC2 news bulletin, COPE was given even more airtime, its logo flashing upfront all the time. The next day, the hagiography continued, whereas, despite the ANC’s majority status, it no longer received ruling party privileges as before, simply because the SABC management and Board are anti-Zuma.
Despite the Ombudsman’s claim that the ANC receives more air time than any other party, this is not so if one takes specific instances. The bias against the ANC is not so much about how much time is allocated to it, as it is in the presentation and the way news is packaged. COPE is always presented in a more favourable light, its logo writ large on the screen, no matter how small their crowds. Zuma’s ANC, on the other hand, is presented from a distance most times, the camera focusing on Zuma as a talking head. He is portrayed mostly in a negative light no matter how vast the masses that attend his rallies, and of course the ANC logo no longer features as prominently as it did under Mbeki. Not to speak of the commentators – the ghastly Sophie Mokoena and Miranda Strydom, who always have a rider to their seemingly objective statements!
How times have changed and one must be a fool not to notice the blatant bias. SABC continues to operate in the mould it has become notorious for. And in the many years that I have monitored the public broadcaster, its agenda remains as transparent as ever, as confirmed by the Sisulu/Marcus report. The time has come for an independent extra-parliamentary body to be appointed to ensure with the run-up to the election, that parties are treated equitably.
The Independent newspapers are equally biased in favour of COPE, having been ardent Mbeki supporters, as attested to by apologist Ivan Fallon’s recent article on Mbeki, in The Independent, Mbeki did not deserve his fate (27 September 2008). At the time of the rape allegation, I remember distinctly, many of their reporters were so convinced that Zuma had raped the woman that they thought I was crazy when I aired my scepticism. They judged him even before they heard the evidence – one of the golden rules of journalism. Many of them were equally convinced that Mbeki would win at Polokwane. That is why I always take their rapportage with a bag of salt, and read between the lines and other newspapers to get to the truth. Too often they feed their own fantasies and fears instead of investigating what is really going on in the country in places where it matters. Indirectly supporting COPE, they forget that its founders are sour at their overwhelming defeat at Polokwane in December last year.
Thus when COPE sanctimoniously invokes respect for the Constitution, the rule of law, the judiciary, and democracy, the media forgets that the seeds of corruption, black economic enrichment, the flouting of the rule of law, and the use of state institutions to fight their vendettas, started with them. They are responsible that Zimbabwe is a mess and they did not give a damn when the disastrous Mbeki/ Msimang dalliance led to the deaths of thousands of black South Africans.
The formation of COPE is just more of the same. There is nothing new or inspiring about them. And the attraction of Peter Marais, Simon Grindrod, and Alan Boesak, amongst other has-beens, should make the electorate wake up and smell the coffee. This is not to dismiss their right to form party. I just so wish their motives were as honourable as they claim them to be!