The 702 breakfast show had arranged to speak to spokesperson for the Department of Social Development, Lumka Oliphant, on Monday morning, about plans for the SASSA payments from 1 April 2017.
When she came on air with presenter, Xolani Gwala, she started to speak in isiZulu, rather than in English, which is the medium of the station. Gwala made it clear that she needed to make her comments in English, to cater to the audience, but she persisted in isiZulu, without acknowledging the request. After further unsuccessful requests to Oliphant to speak in English, Gwala ended the interview.
702 feels that it was not unreasonable for Gwala to expect Oliphant to respond in English.
We have on many previous occasions engaged with Ms Oliphant on air and other forms of correspondence in English, including communication which she has initiated.— Thabisile Mbete, 702 Station Manager
702 has noted criticism of this decision, based on the fact that isiZulu is one of the 11 official languages and spokesperson Oliphant was within her rights to speak whichever of these languages she chose to. 702 remains committed to the promotion of a diversity of languages and this is a topic that is often discussed on the 702 platform. In addition, when a caller or guest is better able to express themselves in a language that is not English, arrangements are made for them to speak in their home tongue, and for their comments to be translated into English, as this is the medium of the station, as per the broadcast license issued and regulated by ICASA.
Oliphant herself has been given the opportunity to speak on 702 in isiXhosa once before, on Eusebius McKaiser’s show when the discussion was translated.
We felt that in this instance, Oliphant had been given ample opportunity to request an interview in another language, as she had been in discussion with the producers of the show since Sunday.— Thabisile Mbete, 702 Station Manager
If she had made this request ahead of time, we could have allocated additional time to the interview, to allow Xolani to translate.
Immediately prior to the interview with Xolani, she had conducted another interview in English, on SABC’s Morning Live and we feel that her decision to speak in isiZulu was nothing more than an attempt to obfuscate the actual issue under discussion.”— Thabisile Mbete, 702 Station Manager
In addition to not shedding any light on whether the SASSA payments will be made in April, she has also undermined the very important issue of linguistic diversity in South Africa.”
Listen here to how the interview unfolded: