'Don't touch me on my studio!'
A potentially disastrous television-rage incident during a current affairs show united the country - in bellyaching laughter.
The phrase "don't touch me on my studio" went viral yesterday after a racially tense moment on the Africa 360 show on Wednesday night. It was no joke in eNews studios, however, when anchor Chris Maroleng was forced to intervene in an on-air scrap between AWB secretary-general Andre Visagie and political analyst Lebohang Pheko.
The two were discussing race relations in the aftermath of AWB leader Eugene Terre Blanche's murder. Tempers flared when Pheko confronted Visagie about the abuse of farm workers in South Africa, and did not allow him to respond.
Visagie became hot under the collar, telling Pheko not to interrupt him, before ripping off his microphone and storming off the set.
He returned moments later, saying: "I'm not finished with you, you don't interrupting me (sic)."
Maroleng came to Pheko's defence.
Pheko, the policy and advocacy director of the gender group Trade Collective, looked on bewildered while an AWB security guard and eNews staff intervened.
But it was Maroleng's repeated statement to Visagie, "Don't touch me on my studio, don't you dare touch me on my studio (sic)," and the AWB member's adamant response, "I'll touch you on your studio", that left the country in stitches.
The recorded altercation, particularly the "studio" phrase, became the joke of the day on YouTube, Twitter, e-mail and Facebook, with innuendos about what exactly Maroleng's studio was.
Gus Silber tweeted: "Good news. AWB secretary-general Andre Visagie has retracted his threat to touch eTV's Chris Maroleng on his studio."
"Don't touch me on my studio! It feels so naughty, but it feels so good," bantered one twitter-user. "My studio is bigger than yours," said another.
The "studio" video got more than 50000 YouTube hits in less than 24 hours, and dialogue from the clip has since been remixed with the MC Hammer song Can't Touch This.
While the country laughs, Maroleng's bosses have applauded his intervention in the heated situation.
Patrick Conroy, group head of eNews, said: "Chris Maroleng was calm and tried to defuse the situation and prevent it from escalating. eNews management is happy with the way he dealt with the situation."
Maroleng did not stick around to bask in his new-found fame.
"Chris Maroleng left for Sudan last night on an assignment," said the channel's publicist, Melissa Fredericks. The Times understands that Pheko will lay charges of intimidation against Visagie.
Visagie was not available for comment.