The SABC's acting head of news and current afffairs Jimi Matthews - since the real head of news Phil Molefe is still at home and on indefinite "special leave" for months now pending a disciplinary hearing - has ordered SABC News journalists and reporters not to use the words "Nkandlagate" or refer to it as a "compound" or a "homestead" in any stories about president Jacob Zuma's presidential home in KwaZulu-Natal which is supposed to be upgraded at the cost of a massive R238 million.
Previously the SABC News division was also told not to refer to the Marikana shootings as a "massacre".
Jimi Matthews sent out the following email to SABC News staff:
Your [sic] are hereby notified that, with immediate effect, President Zuma's Nkandla home should be referred to as the President's, or Mr Zuma's "Nkandla residence", and not a "compound" or "Homestead" or any other such term. Please also refrain from using imported terminology in reporting on the controversy surrounding the infrastructural developments around the residence, such as "Nkandlagate", "Zumaville" and such like.."
The SABC has not yet responded to a media enquiry made.
The COPE political party Juli Kilian said the email was indicative of "deplorable political cencorship" and a "direct attack on freedom of expression and the editorial independence of the SABC".
"This is the latest incident of ongoing Luthuli House news manipulation. This deplorable political cencorship is a direct attack on freedom of expression and the editorial independen of the SABC," says Juli Kilian.
"This does not only destroy the credibility of the SABC News, but the very integrity of the SABC as an independent public broadcaster. COPE condemns any form of censorship and partisan meddling into what South Africans should hear and what not. The SABC belongs to South Africans, not to a ruling faction of the ANC."
"THe email is irregular and it contravenes the Broadcasting Act and the SABC license agreement with the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa). This matter will be reported to the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA)."