On Monday 29 June 2020, at 13h50, eNCA (a 24 hour news channel) published a news report that the Supreme Court of Appeal (the SCA) – the second highest court in the South African hierarchy of courts – had, in dismissing the application of the Public Protector of South Africa for leave to appeal against a judgment of the North Gauteng High Court concerning the Vrede Dairy Farm project, found that
“the Public Protector should pay at least 85 percent of the costs in her personal capacity following the matter between her, the DA and the Casac.”
This statement was patently false. eNCA knew it to be false.
Distortion, exaggeration or misrepresentation of the news is a contravention of the Code of Conduct of the Broadcast Complaints Commission of South Africa (the BCCSA). eNCA subscribes to that Code of Conduct.
The Order of the SCA had been made on 21 June 2020 (more than a week before eNCA published its false statement). It was issued on 26 June 2020 (3 days before). Thus, when eNCA published its false news story, the Order of the SCA had been in the public domain for well over 48 hours.
There was nothing in the SCA Order, on any reading, that said the Public Protector must pay “at least 85 percent of the costs in her personal capacity”. The High Court had ordered that the Public Protector pays 15% of the combined costs of the Democratic Alliance (the main opposition party in Parliament) and CASAC (a not for profit organisation).
The SCA Order said:
“The application for leave to appeal is dismissed with costs on the grounds that there is no reasonable prospect of success in an appeal and there is no other compelling reason why an appeal should be heard.”
By the morning of Tuesday 30 June 2020, eNCA had furtively changed the false publication by removing the offending reference to “at least 85 percent of the costs” having to be paid by the Public Protector “in her personal capacity”.
As this “change” did not satisfy the BCCSA Code of Conduct, a complaint was lodged nonetheless.
The BCCSA Code of Conduct says:
“Where it subsequently appears that a broadcast report was incorrect in a material respect, it must be rectified forthwith, without reservation or delay. The rectification must be presented with such a degree of prominence and timing as in the circumstances may be adequate and fair so as to readily attract attention.”
A surreptitious change to the news story, effected seemingly overnight, without “attracting attention” to what has been corrected, is not in compliance with this provision of the Code of Conduct. It is for this reason that the complaint requests the BCCSA to direct eNCA to:
- to issue an apology for the false report on all its platforms and prominently;
- to make an undertaking it will never do so again both to the BCCSA and in such prominent apology;
- to subject the person/s responsible for the false report to disciplinary hearing; and
- to report back to the BCCSA within a reasonable period on the outcome of such disciplinary proceedings in a full report containing the bases for its findings and sanction, if any.
A bit of context for non-South Africans.
The Public Protector of South Africa is the equivalent of a Super-Ombud established in terms of the Constitution of South Africa to (1) investigate conduct in state affairs including public administration in any sphere of government, (2) report on that conduct, and (3) take appropriate remedial action which is binding until set aside by a court of law.
The current head of that office has been under attack these past two years both in the mainstream media and in the courts for her work, so much so, that a process for her removal from office has been initiated by the main opposition party in Parliament. She has been attacked mainly for her competence and alleged political partisanship. Despite complaining about the inadequacy of her office’s budget, it has now been further reduced, reportedly by about R58 million. And she has been ordered by the high court (now confirmed by a majority of the Constitutional Court) to pay from her own pocket 15% of the costs of an application brought by the South African central bank to have her remedial action against the central bank set aside. That is the context and significance of the eNCA false report.
It was conveyed to the BCCSA that this complaint would be published here, and so, too, the ruling of the BCCSA should it be provided.
Receipt of the complaint was acknowledged. We await the ruling.
Read the Full Complaint by clicking on this link: Complaint against eNCA to BCCSA – Website: