Mask ‘mishap’, condemnation and protests – here’s how eNCA made SA talk

ANC members picket outside the eNCA offices in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, on March 2 2021 over alleged racist reporting by journalist Lindsay Dentlinger                                        Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

Private broadcaster eNCA and journalist Lindsay Dentlinger continue to be a talking point almost a week after the “mask mishap”.

Some have called for Dentlinger’s head while others have blamed the ruling party for allowing racial discrimination to thrive in SA.

The ANC on Tuesday led a protest to the broadcaster’s headquarters in Hyde Park, Johannesburg, where it handed over a memorandum.

Here’s the rundown of all the drama:

‘Racism’ captured on video 

news video of Dentlinger interviewing politicians in parliament after the 2021 budget speech last Wednesday went viral. It showed how she asked UDM MP Nqabayomzi Kwankwa to wear a mask while FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald was interviewed mask-less.

Many accused her of racism and of implying that black South Africans were the “carriers” of Covid-19. More videos of Dentlinger asking black politicians to keep their masks on during interviews without asking the same of white politicians resurfaced on social media.

This was followed by threats to boycott eNCA via the hashtag #eNCAmustFall.

eNCA responds: no malice intended 

The station issued an apology on the same day and denied Dentlinger’s conduct was racially motivated.

It also defended her character, saying she is a seasoned journalist whose character had never been questioned. The broadcaster said Dentlinger was in a high-pressure environment and the online backlash was unfair and unfortunate.

Celebrities react

Radio and TV personality Anele Mdoda, TV presenter Lerato Kganyago and Idols SA judge Unathi Nkayi were among the celebrities who condemned Dentlinger’s conduct and rejected the station’s apology.

Mdoda said the station should not have defended Dentlinger while Nkayi said the interviews reflected “white supremacy.”

ANC protests at eNCA headquarters

ANC deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte led protesters who gathered outside eNCA’s offices on Tuesday. Former ministers Bathabile Dlamini and Nomvula Mokonyane were also present.

The ruling party handed over a memorandum and gave eNCA seven days to respond to its demands.

The demands include that the broadcaster withdraws its statement in which it defended the journalist, publicly acknowledge its history of mistreating black people and commits to training its journalists and management on human rights.

Dentlinger responds 

During an interview with JJ Tabane on eNCA on Monday night, Dentlinger said the viral clips were from October last year to Wednesday last week.

She denied that she refused to speak to black people who were not wearing masks .

She said company policy compels reporters to ask interviewees to wear masks, but claimed she forgot to ask this when she spotted Groenewald, who was her first interviewee after the budget speech. She apologised for this.

Dentlinger said under normal circumstances, she would have a producer with her who ensures guests are ready for interviews but this was not the case due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“People don’t want to hear it was an oversight for me not to ask Groenewald to wear a mask. He was my first interviewee. Things are working differently in this time of Covid-19.”

She said she was reminded when she saw Kwankwa wearing his mask to ask him to keep it on during the interview.

By Cebelihle Bhengu


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