'We were very hurt': Jackson Mthembu on SABC's Ramaphosa blunder

19 September 2019 - 17:52 By Andisiwe Makinana
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu.
Minister in the presidency Jackson Mthembu.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

Government was “hurt” when the SABC blundered by airing an unedited tape of a pre-recorded address by President Cyril Ramaphosa, in which he made a mistake.

A few seconds into the address two weeks ago - which was dubbed “an address to the nation” - Ramaphosa made a mistake while delivering the message. He flags it by saying: “Let's start again, I made a mistake.”

The SABC has since revealed that the broadcast of the incorrect clip was “a well-considered and co-ordinated act of sabotage” to bring the corporation and Ramaphosa into disrepute. It apologised to the president and suspended four employees.

“We were hurt. We were very hurt,” revealed Jackson Mthembu, the minister in the presidency responsible for planning, monitoring and evaluation, on Thursday.

Mthembu accused the broadcaster of throwing Ramaphosa and the government under the bus, and of making a joke of the president's address - particularly since he was speaking on matters as serious as gender-based violence and violent attacks in Gauteng.

“I felt very bad because I was waiting patiently to hear my president speak to the nation on very important matters: the killing of women by men in our country and attacks on foreign nationals and fellow South Africans by some in our country.

“And what does the SABC do, or some people in the SABC? They make a joke out of it. Yes, that's how we sounded like...” he said.

Mthembu suggested that had the blooper happened on a less important topic, it would have been more tolerable.

“Even if you wanted to deal with us as a government or the president, why decide on that important issue? I felt that you could have done this some other time, not at the time.”

So you did throw us under the bus, but we are happy that you are dealing with it
Jackson Mthembu

An SABC journalist had asked Mthembu how the president felt about the incident.

Mthembu said the government was happy when the SABC said it would investigate and get to the bottom of what happened, and was ensuring that there would be consequences.

“It's so bad when something of this nature happens to our own public broadcaster and you throw your own government under the bus, under the train, at a time when we relied on you to get all of South Africa, through the president, to focus on what was happening in the country.

“So you did throw us under the bus, but we are happy that you are dealing with it,” he added.

It's not clear whether the government had laid a complaint with the SABC. Mthembu said he took it for granted that communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams would have raised the matter with the SABC.

Ndabeni-Abrahams's spokesperson Nthabeleng Mokitimi-Dlamini had not responded to requests for comment by the time of publishing.