A complaint by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has pulled the plug on the hard-hitting rugby segment nicknamed “Room Dividers” that aired during Robert Marawa’s [email protected] show on Metro FM.
The show ran each Tuesday during the Rugby World Cup that ended in the United Kingdom in October and featured three former players — Kaunda Ntunja‚ Lawrence Sephaka and Thando Manana.
The trio were scathing in their criticism of Mbalula and his stance on the lack of transformation in rugby during the November 3 edition of the show — which aired the day the Springboks came home from the World Cup.
Suspicions of political interference at the public broadcaster arose when host Marawa tweeted on Tuesday that “That decision is in the hands of other human beings” after being asked by an avid listener if ‘‘Room Dividers” would continue.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said Mbalula laid his grievance as a member of the public and that there was no political pressure to can the segment.
“We have not canned the show‚ but there was a complaint about that show by Mr Mbalula‚” Kganyago said.
“I’m saying Mr Mbalula deliberately because he is a member of the public and if he feels he has been offended in any way‚ he has the right to lay a complaint. That happens every day in broadcasting.
“He felt he was wronged and that things were said without him being given an opportunity to respond. We didn’t take his complaints from his press conference but from the complaint he sent us. We don’t see political interference in this in any way. Whether Mr Mbalula is right or wrong is irrelevant; we will investigate and come to a decision.
“And while the regulatory division is still investigating the complaint‚ a decision was made that that show cannot continue until it is complete because the segment might do more damage.”
Mbalula denied any involvement or knowledge of the discontinuation of the feature.
“How do I account for something that happened at Metro FM?” Mbalula said.
“How do I even know that there was a show that was cancelled at Metro FM — something that has nothing to do with me?
“I have nothing to do with what happens at Metro FM but everything to do with what concerns my space. I’m not running Metro FM‚ how can you put me in the midst of that?”
The programme set the minister and Marawa on a collision course. At the centre of the acrimony was also Bok coach Heyneke Meyer’s poor record regarding the selection of black players.
“Mbalula has never played rugby‚ firstly‚ and he does not know what it means to be a black Springbok‚” said Manana during last week’s show.
“He knows how to organise the SA Sports Awards but does not know the amount of difficulty that a boy from Mqanduli‚ Zwide or Tygerberg goes through … I lose respect and desire to learn from a leader that shows no leadership.”
Mbalula‚ who has a standing transformation agreement with the South African Rugby Union (Saru)‚ said he was unfairly slated on the programme but added he was still open to discuss issues of transformation.
“You all know‚ guys‚ I was molested‚ vandalised and attacked there … [But] I took up an issue with Marawa in relation to them speaking about me in my absence‚” Mbalula told Times Media.
“That is my right as a citizen. When you attack somebody in his absence‚ you need to afford them a right of reply. I didn’t run away from the discussion‚ I raised issues of content with the producer but I never said I wasn’t going to come to the show. I don’t discuss the performance of any national team.
“How do I take responsibility for Meyer and the dissatisfaction of South Africans regarding his performance? How do I take responsibility for the overall opinion that he doesn’t like black players? Ask me about government policy and transformation then I’ll respond.”
Times Media understands that [email protected] producer Beverly Maphangwa was instructed by station manager Sibongile Mtyali not to re-invite the “Room Dividers” for next week’s final show.
“You need to speak to Rob or the programme manager [Tony Soglo] at Metro because I have no idea (sic)‚” said Maphangwa.
Contacted for comment‚ Marawa didn’t respond to calls and texts. Mtyali deflected all questions to Kganyago.