South Africans on social media turned out in support of eNCA reporter Nontobeko Sibisi, who said a story in which she featured wearing a doek (scarf) was taken off air. In a leaked e-mail chain, Sibisi said she had put together a three-minute video package for Africa Day. In it, she is featured wearing a doek for nine seconds. The e-mail said the package was not aired because a line manager took issue with her wearing a doek on camera.
Since Sibisi took issue with her manager’s decision, the topic has been dubbed #DoekGate and discussed at length on radio and social media. Some women tweeted doek selfies to show their support for Sibisi, and to demonstrate that a doek should not be considered “unprofessional” attire. Sibisi, who is a general reporter who sometimes focuses on arts and entertainment at eNCA, tweeted she had felt the support.
“I’ve listened and read many of your comments on #Doek including our Editor in Chief A.Harber – some discussions and changes are brewing. Ta,” she tweeted.
eNCA’s editor-in-chief, Anton Harber, said he had no problem with Sibisi’s headgear and the television’s policy towards headwear may need to be revised.
“Having watched the insert, I have no problem with the headgear Nontobeko Sibisi wore for her Africa Day piece,” Harber said. “When I recently arrived at eNCA, one of the first things raised with me was a concern that our policy in this regard needed to be reviewed and updated.”
Harber said that eNCA took after”conventional television channel policy” by discouraging all sorts of headwear including scarves, alice bands and large earrings.
“It is clear that there are strong views on this among our staff and a process to review the policy to embrace our country’s diversity and the principles of our constitution, and to give clarity on what is appropriate on air has been started.”
Despite Harber’s comments, eNCA was heavily criticised on social media, with some calling it “an attack on African culture”. “The attack on the #doek is about the unacceptability’ of African aesthetics in corporate culture’. It’s an attack on Africanity,” tweeted @Zuko_Godlimpi.
“Corporates are hard at work trying to wipe-out the last traces of the African cultures, hence the #doek policy by the @eNCA,” wrote @_dj404.
Others pointed out that wearing a doek is a requirement for people following certain South African cultures and religions.
“In a country with cultures that, moral merits aside, require married women to wear #doek, it’s bizarre that some corporate spaces outlaw them,” said @Zuko_Godlimpi.
“@NokuthulaMp asked: “Does this #Doek story mean women who are abiding by religious and cultural rules will never secure jobs with you @eNCA?”
Sibisi’s e-mail communicated that she was offended by the decision of her sub-editor. “Colleagues, I write this email with a heavy heart, burdened by an unjustifiable injustice that happened to me in this newsroom,” Sibisi wrote in an e-mail to her co-workers. “Last week, I put together a story on an African cross-border music collaboration of four musicians from Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa… Now because for 9 seconds of an about three-minute piece, I appear wearing a doek – the story was taken off air without my knowledge.”
Sibisi pointed out that the doek’s heritage as an African clothing item made it perfectly appropriate attire for a video segment celebrating Africa Day.
“I find this no doek’ guideline really fails to apply itself to the context and the cultural diversity of this country – i.e. An African story, on Africa Day, During Africa Month.
“Some of us have been half naked on TV, in PJs, gowns, ballet tutus, speedos, boxing gear all fitting to a particular context – yet somehow a doek was offensive enough during a significant and celebratory day and month in our continent. I personally find this is double standards.”[Source: Cape Argus]