STATEMENT OF THE ANC NEC SUB-COMMITTEE ON COMMUNICATIONS ON PRESS FREEDOM AND RECENT DEVELOPMENTS AT THE SABC
5 July 2016
The African National Congress (ANC) has noted with grave concern recent developments at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) which have led to the resignation of the Acting Group Chief Executive Officer, the suspension of several senior journalists and widespread condemnation of policy decisions at the public broadcaster which border on censorship.
Over the last few days, the ANC (and correctly so) has referred all matters relating to the developments at the SABC to the SABC Board of Directors and the Minister responsible for Communications – who are best placed to deal with matters involving the SABC. We emphasized that the SABC does not report to the ANC. It was our hope that by now these issues would have been attended to and resolved. We still believe it is not too late for them to do so; we are of the view however that the ANC must clarify its position on these matters.
The African National Congress has throughout its history steadfastly upheld the principle of media freedom and freedom of expression.This unambiguous position of the ANC is enshrined in the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa and all policy articulations of the movement over many decades. We have jealously guarded the right to freedom of expression and have never hesitated to speak in favor of media freedom wherever and whenever allegations of media censorship of any kind were raised. The people of this country, led by the ANC, fought for freedom of expression, for the freedoms enjoyed by the media today and the right of any person to access any information.
Therefore any policy changes or editorial decisions by the SABC that in anyway limit these freedoms can never be sanctioned by the ANC nor do they represent the policy views and aspirations of the African National Congress. The ANC stands opposed to any actions that infringe on our people’s rights to hear and see what they want to hear and see. The ANC also stands opposed to any infringement of journalists’ rights to practice their craft.
While the ANC does not glorify violence, the decision of the SABC to desist from showing images of the destruction of property has not been consulted with or condoned by the African National Congress. This is worrying as it amounts to a change in a policy position of the governing party – without any due engagement on its merits and reasoning. Further, significant policy changes such as this in South Africa undergo an extensive public participation process, to canvas opinions of the South African people and to build consensus on a matter – this too has not been done
Owing to the SABC’s unique place in society as well as its public mandate, it is particularly important that the public broadcaster is free of political interference of any kind. Successive administrations have been accused of political interference of some kind at the SABC – and this is nearly always said to be in the name of the ANC.
To date, no evidence has been produced to substantiate such claims. The latest controversy surrounding editorial practices at the SABC, unfortunately being made by an individual who has fallen out of favor with his employer, have also regretfully once again drawn the ANC into the fray.
The ANC categorically rejects any allegation to have connived with members of the SABC staff or management to undermine any political party and change any editorial decisions.
It is the considered view of the ANC that the various crises engulfing the SABC are a consequence of a lack of leadership at the institution. Vacancies at the most senior and critical positions within the institution as well as ongoing court challenges facing the COO serve to weaken general managerial control and have led to a collapse of corporate governance within the organisation. The role of the Board in the ongoing challenges leaves much to be desired and should be strengthened to allow the public broadcaster to effectively deliver on its mandate.
The African National Congress has sought a meeting with the Minister of Communications, Comrade Faith Muthambi, to receive a briefing on matters related to the SABC including some of the reported decisions being taken within the institution. We will also be calling for an urgent enquiry into the very serious allegations being made that tarnish the image of the ANC in respect of the current developments at the SABC.
The extremely unfortunate developments at the public broadcaster cannot be allowed to continue any further and can definitely not continue in the name of the African National Congress and the countless South Africans who paid the highest price for the constitutionally enshrined freedoms we enjoy today.
We also wish to take this opportunity to wish all the Muslim community Eid Mubarak pending sighting of the moon tonight.
Statement issued by Jackson Mthembu, Chairperson: ANC NEC Sub-Committee on Communications, 5 July 2016