The Ahmed Kathrada Foundation, views with great concern the racially prejudiced manner of interviews conducted by eNCA reporter Lindsay Dentlinger. The criticism levelled against Dentlinger- who, in two interviews conducted in succession at the 2021 Budget Speech, shows racial bias in her differential treatment of the two interviewees- is warranted and necessary. The Foundation also notes, with disdain, the subsequent response by the broadcasting station and its dismissal of racism in this regard. After meeting with Dentlinger to discuss the inconsistency in her behaviour, eNCA management concluded that the journalist’s conduct was not racially motivated and lacked malicious intent. Managing Director, Norman Munzhelele, inferred that “there is no mal intent on the part of the journalist.” In addition, he attributed the “unplanned occurrence(s)” to the pressures exuded by the environment of live TV. The independent broadcaster also emphasised Dentlinger’s credentials, citing her experience of 21 years in the journalism and media industry. In addition to the objectionable wrongness of Dentlinger’s racist behaviour, it is precisely this experience – 9 years of which she has gained through eNCA – which makes Dentlinger’s lack of mal intent unjustifiable. The concept of unintentionality in justifying racism is one against which anti-racism advocates have been protesting for decades. With the increasing rise of right-wing and fascist agendas gaining prominence across the globe, a lack of malicious intent- with regard to racist behaviour- cannot be a justifiable response when racism is called out. All South Africans are called upon to be anti-racist – the absence of racist intent is inexcusable. The standard is a proactive approach to rooting out racism for good! As a “seasoned journalist” in the country, the standard should be unequivocally higher for Dentlinger. Members of the media are compelled to conduct their work without fear or favour – the mandate necessitates both fearlessness and impartiality – the one cannot be practiced without the other. The broadcaster, eNCA, as a custodian of these values, is similarly obliged to hold all journalists in its employ to the moral and professional standards that the profession requires. eNCA’s dismissal of racially prejudicial behaviour as unintended is misleading and not acceptable. On a very basic level, the broadcaster is called to hold its own employees to the same standards it holds all South Africans to. This standard is enshrined in Section 9 of the Constitution, which, in addition to equality before the law, guarantees freedom from discrimination to all citizens. Furthermore, eNCA must be unequivocal in its stance against and condemnation of racism in whatever guise it comes, including subliminal manifestation. It must actively work to demonstrate its commitment to anti-racism and racism justice. eNCA must rise to the occasion to convince South Africans that it too can aspire to become an embodiment of our highest values and ideals as captured in our Constitution. Its response is far below the standards required by our Constitution! The Kathrada Foundation calls on eNCA to review its position on this matter and view this as a possible pattern of racially prejudiced behaviour by its journalist. The management and owners of eNCA have a responsibility to take this matter with far greater seriousness and to take an unequivocal position on it. It would thereafter have to decide what kind of sanction and training Ms. Dentlinger needs to be subjected to. With Anti-Racism week just ahead of us, we are reminded that the scourge of racism needs to be robustly and urgently addressed otherwise this scourge will remain with us for decades to come. It is likely that this matter will be referred to the SAHRC or the Equality Court. Perhaps this is where it would be best to develop appropriate sanctions and remedial measures. Interviewers on eNCA and other channels have often asked anti-racism activists, with great incredulity, the question of why racism still exists after 26 years of democracy. As this incident shows, racism is an issue that the media world itself has to grapple with as it seeks to answer the question about the persistence of racism in our society.



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