The South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) is disappointed by the limited access granted to journalists during an oversight visit by an ad hoc committee of Parliament to the private residence of President Jacob Zuma at Nkandla.
Journalists were only allowed access to the section of the property whereupon 21 chalets for bodyguards and soldiers; the clinic and the helicopter landing pad are situated.
Sanef and media houses had requested the chair of the ad hoc committee, Cedric Frolick (ANC), and the speaker of the National Assembly, Baleka Mbete, to give media access to the residence to enable it observe all the committee’s activities. In their response, both claimed that they “have no legal authority” to grant the media access. The media were not permitted to observe the site visit by the MPs, and a separate media tour was granted to a limited section of Nkanda.
The aim of the journalists’ visit was not to inspect or intrude into the president’s private residence, but it was part of their duty to inform the public regarding a matter of enormous public interest given the public expenditure involved. It was within this context that the MPs visited the residence. Denying the media a complete access and preventing them from accompanying MPs are an unreasonable and unjustified infringement of the public’s right to know.
It was unfortunate that some DA members decided to participate in the part of the tour organised and reserved for journalists. Their conduct is unacceptable and has potential to politicise a non-partisan and innocuous media tour.
For enquiries you can contact
Chairperson Media Freedom Committee
Deputy Chairperson Media Freedom Committee
(011) 646 8790
Sanef Deputy Chairperson
079 513 5153