The DA in the legislature has written to the Government Communication and Information System’s (GCIS) Western Cape office, to ask why ANC MPLs have recently been participants in community radio station interviews – sponsored by the agency, using taxpayers’ money.
DA chief whip Mireille Wenger said the interviews contradict the role of the GCIS, which she maintains is to “proactively communicate with the public about government policies, plans, programmes, and achievements.”
“We need to know why taxpayers’ money is seemingly being spent on broadcasting the ANC’s political platform and, in the absence of a suitable response, we will pursue additional avenues for accountability,” said Wenger.
Wenger first raised the issue on the floor of the legislature and then followed it up with a press statement.
“Over a period of five months, three ANC MPLs and one ANC PR councillor, none of whom hold executive office, were invited by GCIS to represent the government in paid-for interviews. The value of these interviews is reported as R33 200,” said Wenger.
She named one of the MPLs as ANC provincial education spokesperson Khalid Sayed.
In an email response to queries from the Argus, GCIS deputy director-general Phumla Williams denied the agency was biased.
“As part of ensuring communities are provided with information they need, GCIS extends the invitations to local leaders in the area, such as local councillors, traditional leaders and, generally, influential community leaders – to respond on any issues that communities may wish to obtain clarity on. This we do without any bias towards any political party.
“Community media are set up as non-profit organisations, in terms of their respective ICASA licenses. They are, therefore, self-funding and, hence, GCIS pays for the air time that we procure from these community media platforms,” said Williams.
Responding to Wenger’s statement, Sayed said the producer of the particular show he spoke on had also invited DA sub-council chairperson Stuart Pringle, who had been unable to attend.
“We had been invited to a post-SONA discussion, to talk about the impact of Covid-19. Not once did I promote the ANC on that programme.
“It was not our fault that the DA public representative was unavailable to participate. If the DA wants to occupy the media terrain, they must accept invitations and not engage in cheap political stunts, trying to cast aspersions on us as members of the opposition, or the GCIS,” said Sayed.