NEWS & ANALYSIS

ANC cannot continue to sideline Parliament in SABC saga – John Steenhuisen

DA says Motsoeneng seems determined as ever to dominated and destroy SABC

ANC cannot continue to sideline Parliament in SABC saga

13 July 2016

The ANC’s continued attempts to manage the SABC crisis through the smoky backrooms of Luthuli House is clearly not working and it is high time that Parliament intervenes. 

Yesterday ANC Secretary General Gwede Mantashe made remarks echoing this sentiment, which are welcomed, however ring hollow considering my requests that the ANC Chief Whip, Jackson Mthembu, recall the Portfolio Committee on Communications under National Assembly Rule 223 to facilitate this intervention have been denied.

In the meantime, the SABC’s COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng has continued to operate without accountability and this week once again showed SA the middle finger this week by brazenly refusing to accept the Independent Communications Authority of SA’s decision to have the SABC to withdraw its ban on broadcasting public protests, and threatening to take their decision on review.  

Motsoeneng seems determined as ever to dominate and destroy our public broadcaster and has even claimed that he is not accountable to politicians, which could not be further from the truth. The SABC is directly accountable to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications. As the COO of our public broadcaster, the decisions taken by him are directly accountable to Parliament and the politicians that serve it and South Africa.

Considering Motsoeneg’s behaviour and other recent developments at the broadcaster such as inquisition-styled disciplinary hearings, mass action, and reports that the SABC’s leadership have deliberately chosen to provide biased coverage of the ANC ahead of the election, Parliament can no longer sit on the sidelines and must take a stand.

The continued censorship at the SABC has placed the very freedom and fairness of the upcoming election at risk, and a week ago I sent a second letter to the ANC Chief Whip in Parliament, Jackson Mthembu urging him to reconsider his decision to not recall the Communications Portfolio Committee to scrutinise and seek solutions to the current crisis at the SABC.

His initial refusal to let the Communications Portfolio Committee meet before the elections and non-response to my appeal has placed Parliament at risk of yet another dereliction of duty that will have disastrous consequences for our constitutional democracy.

It would appear that the ANC is content simply distancing themselves from the crisis at the SABC as opposed to actually disciplining the guilty culprits. If they are serious about solving this crisis and are not simply electioneering, they will urgently recall the Portfolio Committee.

I therefore call on Chief Whip Mthembu to respond to my letter, dated 5 July 2016 by the end of today, in the affirmative. 

Issued by John Steenhuisen, Chief Whip of the DA, 13 July 2016