The KwaZulu-Natal premier, Sihle Zikalala, on Friday said that eNCA news reporter Shahan Ramkissoon “disrespected” and “belittled” him during a live broadcast earlier this month.
The premier made the statement during a Zoom meeting organised by the South African National Editor’s Forum (Sanef).
Zikalala was asked by one of several journalists in attendance if he was going to withdraw from speaking to the media after he had made several disparaging statements about the industry, just as fellow ANC member and former eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede had done.
Gumede was deployed to the KwaZulu-Natal legislature and sworn in on Wednesday, causing outrage amongst opposition parties, swathes of the public, political pundits and opinionistas.
She is currently out on R50 000 bail related to a Durban Solid Waste tender scandal of just over R400 million. She said she would no longer be speaking to the media because of the negativity surrounding her deployment.
On August 7, Zikalala and Ramkissoon got into a heated discussion about the state of affairs in the province and the alleged scandal surrounding the procurement of Covid-19 personal protective equipment (PPE).
Ramkissoon posed a question to the premier about the money spent on the procurement.
“When I say there are so and so who have committed a crime, now you (Shahan) are coming and everyone has committed the crime. That’s what you have misconstrued and you are wrong,” said Zikalala, making reference to the officials who were suspected of corruption in the PPE scandal.
He had also accused Ramkissoon of not allowing him a chance to respond to questions.
During the Friday Zoom meeting, Zikalala commented on the way Ramkissoon addressed him, saying: “I’m sure in the engagement with Shahan, there was a bit of disrespect [from him], and there was a lack of ethical conduct on his side.
He also inferred that Ramkissoon’s behaviour bordered on racism.
“The manner in which Shahan was engaging with me was disrespectful and bordering on the element of discrimination. He was trying to belittle me,” said Zikalala.
The premier said there was a sentiment among “others” that “Africans” can’t lead or succeed in “anything”, which is why it was important to respect one another and form social cohesion.
“Even if eNCA calls me tomorrow to do an interview, I will be there. As long as the interview is conducted with respect. Scrutinise any point (referring to the state of affairs) but don’t treat me with disrespect.
“I will always respect each and every journalist, each and every editor, but I must always enjoy respect too,” he said.