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Last Updated: Friday, 9 January, 2004, 19:08 GMT
Row erupts at Mbeki TV coverage
Thabo Mbeki celebrating in 1999
Mbeki and the ANC - widely expected to repeat their success
South Africa's opposition has attacked plans to cover President Thabo Mbeki's launch of his party's election manifesto live on TV this weekend.

Opposition parties accused the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) of reverting to being an apartheid-style broadcaster.

Television executives defended their coverage, saying it is based on the importance of the president's speech.

No date has been set for the election but it is expected to be in April.

Chance to respond

Mr Mbeki, in a letter carried on the African National Congress website, said his speech would unveil the ANC's plan "to push back the frontiers of poverty and expand access to a better life for all".

It will be a busy weekend for the ANC with an official function in Durban on Saturday to launch the manifesto, followed by a mass rally in Pietermaritzburg the next day due to be attended by foreign guests and former President, Nelson Mandela.

The SABC insists Mr Mbeki's speech will be broadcast live in his capacity as head of state, not as the ANC leader.

"It will be an important speech whose message is going to affect everyone in this country," a statement from the broadcaster said.

The SABC has said other parties will be given the chance to respond.

Sullied

But that has not mollified the opposition who are complaining that the lines between government and the ruling party are being blurred.

The Democratic Alliance accused the SABC of giving an unfair advantage to the ANC.

The Inkatha Freedom Party said the broadcaster had already "sullied the election process a la Zimbabwe" - a reference to the tight control Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has on his country's media.

"The SABC is being turned back into an apartheid-style state broadcaster," the IFP said.

The parties are calling on the South African Broadcasting Complaints Commission (BCCSA) and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to intervene.

The general elections are widely expected to take place in April, coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid and the move to multi-party democracy.

Most analysts expect Mr Mbeki to be re-elected easily for a second five-year term.




SEE ALSO:
SA opposition coalition emerges
03 Nov 03  |  Africa
ANC gains from defections
04 Apr 03  |  Africa
Country profile: South Africa
08 Nov 03  |  Country profiles
Timeline: South Africa
19 Nov 03  |  Country profiles


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