Comedian Mongezi “Tol A$$ Mo” Mahlangu has for the first time reacted to a decision by BET Africa to pull an interview with him from their future line-up.
Mahlangu, and his wife Mome had filmed an interview on the new season of TV programme Behind The Story hosted by Pearl Thusi.
Thusi made the announcement on her Twitter account and asked fans to send questions for the comedian.
This was met with outrage from anti Gender Based Violence (GBV) movement activists as Mahlangu has recently had rape allegations levelled against him by model and actress Lerato Moloi.
After initially defending their decision to do the interview, BET Africa succumbed to public pressure and canned the interview from their future line-up.
“BET Africa confirms that the Tol A$$ Mo and Mome interview will not be aired out of respect for the legal proceedings and the basis of impartiality,” BET Africa said in a statement addressed to Sowetan.
Responding to questions emailed to him, Mahlangu said he respected the decision.
“I respect and understand why BET would make such a decision, especially in a time where their viewers are very vocal about the situation,” Mahlangu commented in a written statement.
“I respectfully withhold all my other opinions on the matter at this point in time. Till the law takes it course then I will be able to give a full statement, to respect the legal proceedings.”
On Sunday, Mome released a statement on Instagram, saying: "I remember saying this in July, we will not participate in kangaroo court, but the real court as these allegations are not to be taken lightly."
Tol A$$ Mo took out a protection and interim order against Moloi to delete her tweets from June in which she claimed he had raped her. In a statement earlier this month, she said the incident happened while she was working on a TV production in Paarl, Western Cape, in 2014.
She opened a criminal case late last month.
Moloi's lawyer Thato Mahapa said: "She wishes to not make any comments whatsoever on the BET story. In addition, judgment on the pending protection order application is due tomorrow at the Randburg magistrate's court at 9am, it would be inappropriate for her to comment."
Pan African queer feminist and activist Rosie Motene praised the move to can the interview as a “victory for all those who speak out”.
Motene, however, slammed the channel for their approach.
“Interviewing an alleged perpetrator is tricky for several reasons. Firstly, what is the reason for the interview? Will the interview focus on him and his family and then adding the alleged abuse as a byline, which was the case,” Motene said.
“The content and marketing around the interview should receive the utmost sensitivity and respect. The team should consult through GBV [gender-based violence] and psycho-social professionals. It cannot be a marketing gimmick.
“The victim/survivor should have the right of reply to be part of the interview before it happens? In this case, the invite went out after.”
BET Africa told Sowetan that Moloi declined to participate in the show, but failed to state whether she was afforded a chance to participate in the show before or after the interview took place.
Asked what the purpose of the interview was going to be, the channel said: “In line with the Behind the Story editorial format, the series covers multiple story topics relating to the guest/personalities invited on the show.”
Motene painted a clearer picture to Sowetan on how Moloi was approached.
“After the telephonic conversation with the channel, they asked to convey the invite to Lerato, she declined.
“The channel was notified immediately along with the other areas of concern and suggestions. They then posted that they would endeavour to get both sides of the story. How would that be possible when she declined?”
BET Africa reiterated that the channel and show have always supported the fight against GBV.
They added that previous episodes of Behind The Story had featured in-depth interview with GBV survivors such as Cici, Penny Lebyane and Babes Wodumo telling their stories.
“This Women’s Month, we have created a campaign across all our youth and entertainment platforms as a constant reminder for everyone to reflect on their contribution towards a free, fair and just society for all, especially women during these crucial times we are experiencing as a society,” BET Africa said.