Two things are entirely predictable: that the new political party would get a lot of coverage, and that the ANC would say that this shows media favouritism.
Which is, of course, exactly what happened. There was saturation coverage of the Shikota convention on the weekend, including live SABC coverage. The ANC did not hesitate to suggest this showed the breakaways were the darlings of the media, and indicated they will use this in confronting the SABC in Parliament, where they are due to present their annual report soon.
But maximum coverage of the event was perfectly justified in news terms. The problem is that when the head of SABC news has put himself up as a deployed cadre, it is only right that his deployers should expect obeisance. Even if he makes a pure and justifiable news judgement now, his credibility will be called into question.
Everything changes when there is a credible opposition which threatens to dent the ANC’s majority. It is notable that the new president was charming and friendly to the media, as is his way when he met editors last Saturday (see earlier story). He is intensely private, and has had a disturbingly low profile since stepping into the job, but he has broken with his predecessors predeliction for attacking the media.
On the other hand, ANC spokesperson Jesse Duarte is making little effort to use charm and friendliness, and seems imbued with the same destructive hostility as we came to expect from Mbeki’s people. She will need to take on board the fact that this attitude harms her party more than anyone else, and that she is now competing for positive media attention, and cannot just presume it.