South African social media is up in arms, a not unusual occurrence, but this time with good cause.

Last week eNCA reporter, Nontobeko Sibisi, found a story she did was removed off the air because, she claims, “…for 9 seconds of an about three-minute piece, I appear wearing a doek“. The line editor apparently felt wearing a headscarf contravened the station’s conventional television channel policy which discourages all sorts of headwear including scarves, alice bands and large earrings.

In an e-mail to her colleagues, Ms Sibisi rightly points out that in the past reporters have appeared in all sorts of outrageous costumes e.g. pajamas, speedos and ballet tutus, all fitting to the context of the report. As the insert in question was about an African cross-border music collaboration of four musicians from Nigeria, Zimbabwe and South Africa, what could be more fitting than traditional head wear?

The positive emerging from the debacle is that, apart from having spawned a number of hash tags such as #RespektheDoek and #DoekGate, and prompting prolific soccer journalist Neal Collins to don the doek for a day (challenging Helen Zille, Eusebius McKaizer, Redi Tlhabi and Steve Hofmeyr to follow suit) it has opened up conversation about traditional clothing in the workplace.



South Africa is a culturally diverse country, and some of those cultures and religions require women to cover their heads. While most South Africans would arguably feel uncomfortable about a television news anchor in full hijab on for instance, most companies allow women of the Muslim faith to wear head scarves.

So why not the African “doek”? An artfully wrapped cloth certainly looks every bit as professional as the hats ladies wore when in public, as late as the 1960’s. Meanwhile, eNCA and eNews editor-in-chief Anton Harber has said that he, together with the staff, would review the dress policy.

The only danger is a confection that could be too large to fit a TV screen, but then again, who remembers 1980’s Big Hair?