SABC claims program stolen, makes police report

The South African Broadcasting Corp. may be skittish about airing a doc on political satire, but the Mail & Guardian newspaper is making hay of the controversy over “Special Assignment.”

The doc was pulled twice from broadcast, once before the April 22 national election and then again an hour before it was scheduled to air on SABC3 on May 26.

At issue is the inclusion of material from political cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro, known as Zapiro, lampooning the country’s new president, Jacob Zuma.

But the Mail and Guardian took the controversy directly to the Internet, putting an uncut version of the program on its own website. It was downloaded 3,500 times in 24 hours before crashing the site.

“The public broadcaster won’t put this on air. We will,” the Mail & Guardian announced.

But the SABC is not amused.

“The SABC has reported the matter to the police and will allow the law to take its course,” says SABC spokesman Kaiser Kganyago. “The Mail and Guardian got the uncut version that was stolen from us. They are unlawfully in possession of our property.”

The program included clips from an upcoming satirical TV pilot produced by Zapiro featuring puppet depictions of Zuma trying to flee from the National Prosecuting Authority. It also features the infamous cartoon showing Zuma about to rape Lady Justice.

Zuma is suing Zapiro for the cartoon, published last year as Zuma was facing graft charges, which were later dropped. The rape angle referred to a 2006 case against him. Zuma was found not guilty.

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