TV news channel eNCA has disputed social media reports that its anchors Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton have been suspended.
The reports emerged on Wednesday night. Talk Radio 702 host Eusebius McKaiser was among the first to tweet about it.
He wrote, “Xoli Mngambi and Jane Dutton have been suspended by @eNCA. Staff were told of their suspensions today. If not futher explained, this reduces eNCA to the same status as the SABC under Hlaudi Motsoeneng. The only thing worse than poor commentary by your anchors is to censor them.”
‘Matter between employer and employees’
However, in a short statement on Thursday, eNCA managing director Norman Ndivhuho Munzhelele insisted that Mngambi and Dutton are not on suspension.
He said, “eNCA anchors Jane Dutton and Xoli Mngambi have not been suspended. This is an internal matter and remains between the employer and employees. The employer wishes to respect the rights of the employees in this regard.”
The two anchors have however not been on air since they issued an apology on Tuesday for what they termed an “unfortunate judgement call” on Cooperative Governance Minister Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and President Cyril Ramaphosa regarding the ban on cigarette sales.
In their news introduction on Monday, they suggested that Dlamini-Zuma had taken the decision to extend the ban under level 4 lockdown unilaterally and in a way that undermined Ramaphosa, who had earlier announced that the ban would be lifted.
‘Ramaphosa publicly emasculated’
They said, “Cyril Ramaphosa has been publicly emasculated. We, the public, have been duped. How can you discard what the President has said just because 2,000 people were against it?”
The commentary sparked controversy and widespread condemnation. Some, such as the African National Congress National Youth Task Team (ANC NYTT), called on the public to boycott the channel.
In their apology, Mngambi and Dutton stated, “Singling [Dlamini-Zuma] out on the decision as if it were her own was unfair and unwarranted, especially after President Cyril Ramaphosa had provided clarity on the matter.
“As is [the] practice here at eNCA, we as news anchors are allowed to make commentary on any matter of national importance and this is done purely to encourage debate. It’s not done out of malice or to personalise attacks on a particular leader.”
In his weekly newsletter to the nation on Monday, Ramaphosa made it clear that all NCC decisions are taken collectively.
He said, “This was a collective decision and the public statements by both myself and the Minister were done on behalf of, and mandated by, the collective I lead.”