Mail and Guardian

The two opposition parties have marched on the University of Limpopo after they were excluded from an election debate on land, live streamed on SABC.

Protesters carried posters outside the University of Limpopo that read 'SABC + ANC – Simunye – we are one'. (Johann Abrie, Facebook)

Two opposition parties, Democratic Alliance (DA) and Congress of the People (Cope,) protested at the University of Limpopo outside Polokwane on Sunday, decrying their exclusion from the election debate focusing on land reform.

The university is the venue of the debate organised and televised live by the SABC.

Cope national spokesperson Johann Abrie told the Mail & Guardian that “some of our people have managed to force their way in”.

Shortly before the protest began Abrie posted on Facebook that hundreds of Cope and DA supporters were preparing to “take over” the SABC debate.

“We have not been invited, but we are going in. We proposed to the SABC that we want to read a one-minute statement to condemn the ANC takeover of the SABC,” Abrie said.

Inside the venue a heated debate continued without interruption with parties that were invited: the ANC, Pan-Africanist Party, Freedom Front Plus and Economic Freedom Fighters.

Outside protesters carried posters that read “SABC + ANC – Simunye – we are one”, implying that there is no difference between the ANC and the public broadcaster.

The DA claimed on its Twitter account that the SABC informed the party that it would be excluded from its live debates in the next two weeks as well. The party said it was concerned by the exclusion from the debate because the DA is the official opposition in South African politics.

(Johann Abrie, Facebook)

“ANC does not want to debate the DA because they know they have failed South Africans with their ineffective land policy,” the tweets said. “The DA-led Western Cape government has delivered some of the most comprehensive land reform projects.”

The SABC pulled the DA’s “Ayisafani” advert from air on both radio and television, criticising it for inciting violence against South African Police Service members because it shows police killing people.

On Friday, the M&G reported that journalists at the SABC feared that their phones have been intercepted and that they were being listened to. SABC news staff members told the M&G that they were “reminded” by the corporations’ board chairperson, Ellen Zandile Tshabalala, that they should stop leaks because they were working in a national key point.

City Press reported on Sunday that senior SABC news executives claimed they were ordered not to broadcast footage of the crowds attending opposition party election rallies and that the news staff was unhappy with political interference in their work.

Abrie said while there was no police presence at the venue yet, but that there was “heavy ANC security”.