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S.Africa public broadcaster bans firebrand Malema’s ad

South Africa’s public broadcaster has refused to run an election campaign advert by the party of populist politician Julius Malema, alleging it is inflammatory, the party said Wednesday.

All political parties participating in the May 7 general elections are entitled to slots of free airtime on the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC).

But the advertisement by the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party, which was due to be broadcast on Sunday and Tuesday, was not aired.

“We submitted an advert and the SABC took exception to its content… especially the images of police brutality from the Marikana massacre,” party spokesman, Mbuyiseni Ndlozi told AFP, referring to the police killing of 34 striking miners in 2012.

He said the broadcaster was also uncomfortable with the ad’s slogan suggesting people destroy the gantries for highly unpopular toll roads rolled out last year in and around Johannesburg.

“Those are the grounds of their ban,” he said.

The SAPA news agency quoted SABC spokesman Kaiser Kganyago as saying the ad was “rejected” because the slogan “destroy e-tolls physically” — referring to the new electronic tolling system — incited violence.

But Ndlozi denied the ad would foment unrest, saying billboards bearing the same message had been erected around Johannesburg and Pretoria but “none of our members has taken a hammer to try and remove the e-tolls.”

The EFF has lodged a complaint with the regulator of broadcasting services, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

The 61-second ad, which has been posted on YouTube, opens with a “heartbroken” widow of one of the mine workers killed by police during the 2012 Marikana strike, followed by a clip of the shootings.

Then Malema — a firebrand politician who rose to prominence calling for the seizure of white-owned land and the nationalisation of the country’s mines — urges a “vote against empty promises of the last 20 years”.

The spot ends with anti-tolling slogans.

Malema had complained Tuesday of an unlevel media playing field, telling reporters that “unfair coverage leads to unfair elections.”

The SABC had earlier this month refused an ad by the largest opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, which it suggested incited violence against the police and constituted a personal attack on President Jacob Zuma.

When the party lodged a legal bid to force the broadcaster to run the ad, the SABC made an about-turn and aired it.

A one-time staunch supporter of Zuma, Malema was expelled from the ruling African National Congress in 2012 for criticising the party leadership. He then went on to form his leftist party.