The SABC pulled a documentary on circumcision hours before it was due
to be aired in response to a complaint from a member of the Congress of
Traditional Leaders of South Africa who had not seen the programme, writes Matthew Krouse in the Mail & Guardian.

The decision to stop the showing of the documentary was made unilaterally by SABC head Dali Mpofu, because the documentary had not been approved by an advisory body set up to guide the public broadcaster on cultural and traditional issues.

The advisory panel was set up a year ago after the broadcaster bowed to pressure from the National Heritage Council and Contralesa to halt a coming-of-age mini series titled Umthunzi Wentaba that traditionalists believed "dishonoured" circumcision.

This week award-winning reporter Hazel Friedman's full-length Eastern Cape investigation titled Rights of Passage was pulled hours before it was to be broadcast on Tuesday's Special Assignment. Friedman's report had looked into the death of 25-year-old University of Cape Town student Buntu Majalaza. He died of septicaemia as a result of a botched circumcision last year.

Special Assignment staff members tell of a frantic last-minute rush to make Mpofu a copy of the programme so that he could suspend the broadcast.

Friedman, who won the Vodacom Journalist of the Year Award last year, said this week that she was "outraged" by Mpofu's decision. In making the programme she had consulted provincial ministers for culture and health in both the Eastern Cape and the Western Cape and had received permission to film in hospitals.

"The programme was approved by our Special Assignment executive producer Johann Abrahams and head of current affairs Themba Mthembu.

"I know that we are not allowed to talk to the media but I am certainly allowed to speak in defence of a story that was absolutely respectful of tradition. It did not violate any secrets or undermine the role of any legal representative or any legal cultural custodians," Friedman said.

Click here to read the full report, posted on M&G Online.