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‘Interference with journalists at the SABC is even worse than the public would know’ – Eusebius McKaiser

Eusebius McKaiser has written an extensive analysis of the current situation at the SABC.

Eight journalists who dismissed by the public broadcaster on Thursday, saying they failed to abide by the new editorial policy.

The dismissed journalists, Foeta Krige, Thandeka Gqubule, Suna Venter, Busisiwe Ntuli, Krivani Pillay, Lukhanyo Calata, Jacques Steenkamp and Vuyo Mvoko, claim the policy amounts to censorship.

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Read McKaiser’s thoughts:


Interference with journalists at the SABC is even worse than the public would know. The latest journalist, of the SABC 8 group, who is fighting for his labour rights to be respected is Vuyo Mvoko. Essentially what the SABC did is to say that they won’t ‘schedule’ him – SABC lingo for being taken off the air – which is their way of ensuring that, as an independent contractor, he won’t be able to get paid because he won’t be able to invoice for payments given that he is not on air currently. In addition to that he was, rather ominously, asked to give REASONS why his contract should not be terminated. So the papers served on the SABC today, and which will be filed tomorrow in the high court (as in on Friday, 22 July), is an attempt to ensure Mvoko gets ‘scheduled’ and doesn’t lose income.

But here’s the juicy, and disturbing, thing: There is a long pattern of interference with the work of journalists at the SABC and Hlaudi Motsoeneng isn’t the only one who is a dictator. Motsoeneng has, if this founding affidavit is to be believed (and I definitely believe Mvoko, not least because he is a journalist and human being of impeccable integrity, and a friend I can and do vouch for), several willing helpers who ensure that the space is closed down for good journalism. Here are some examples from the affidavit:

1. Jimi Matthews – now trying to be a belatedly morally upright friend of journalists – pulled Mvoko’s show, On The Record, because Matthews was pissed off that Mvoko interviewed Thuli Madonsela. (CLEARLY, Matthews contributed to the very ‘corrosive atmosphere’ he described in his resignation letter). Matthews EVEN wanted Mvoko to be disciplined for telling his viewers, via Twitter, that the show won’t be shown. [Nothing in the narration of this incident in the affidavit mentions Motsoeneng. This is important. Because, as odious as Motsoeneng is, the truth is that individuals like Matthews had AGENCY and chose to exercise it in a manner inconsistent with the mandate of the public broadcaster and inconsistent with journalistic and managerial integrity more generally.]

2. Sophie Mokoena, as Acting Political Editor, came to tell Mvoko that Motsoeneng is upset that Mvoko had said, on air, during the launch of the DA manifesto, that the DA regards the ANC as being at its most vulnerable, electorally. He was told by Mokoena that Motsoeneng scrutinises ‘each and every word’. [The implication is obvious: A chilling effect to dissuade journalists from saying anything on air that is even vaguely perceived to be critical of the ANC.]

3. Nothando Maseko wanted to possibly can an interview that Mvoko did with President Zuma in Rustenburg at the January 8th (2016) rally of the ANC because Mvoko had asked the president a question about the firing of former finance minister (Nene); theyonly showed the interview when it was obvious, as Mvoko pointed out, that similar broadcasts on ANN7 and eNCA included interviews in which the president had, at any rate, been asked to opine on the same issue. [Again, the implication is obvious: The journalist is here being encouraged, in a rather unsubtle way, to NOT ask the president hard questions even if the questions are newsworthy and in the public interest.]

4. A worse example of such protection of president Zuma played out in 2015 when the SABC actually chose to NOT air part of an interview in which Mvoko had asked the president how he – the president – would respond if a) the minister of police had been untruthful about Robert McBride or Anwar Dramat; and b) asked the president a question about the possible negative effects on foreign investment that a policy of limited (local) land ownership by foreign nationals. [The president, recalls Mvoko roughly, said that the minister would be ‘deal with’ in such a scenario (on the McBride/Dramat question), and, in respect of the land issue, said that foreign investors are free to leave the country. Maseko informed Mvoko that the presidency requested that these answers by Zuma should not be aired, and the SABC agreed, and so never broadcast those parts of the pre-recorded interview.]

The bottom line is that the pattern of censorship, and political manipulation of content to suit Zuma in particular, is therefore not new, despite the feeling, perhaps, that the focus on the SABC is rather sudden. Also, Motsoeneng is ONE of the folks at the SABC responsible for this rot but, frankly, he gets lots of help from those willing to execute this evil plan to use the SABC for party political purposes.

The refusal to ‘schedule’ Mvoko isn’t a good faith decision in the normal course of deciding who is best to have on air right now in terms of elections coverage. Mvoko is OBVIOUSLY the most experienced broadcaster they currently have in terms of the elections beat. The real reason for the refusal to have him on air is simple: He does his job with no regard for party political biases (or factional interests withi the ruling party) and that doesn’t serve the agenda of the likes of Matthews (prior to his resignation) or Motsoeneng or the generals (Mokoena that they have appointed to various managerial positions.

I hope Mvoko wins in the high court. But even if he doesn’t, it is fantastic that open court processes allow us to further scrutinise what is going on inside an important public institution.
Be vigilant, active citizen.

Book details

  • A Bantu in My Bathroom: Debating Race, Sexuality and Other Uncomfortable South African Topics by Eusebius McKaiser
    EAN: 9781920434373
    Find this book with BOOK Finder!

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