Hlaudi Motsoeneng tightens screws on SABC staff - Gavin Davis

DA MP says there is a growing climate of paranoia, fear and intimidation at the public broadcaster

Hlaudi tightens screws on SABC staff

19 January 2015

Evidence is growing of a climate of paranoia, fear and intimidation at the SABC under Acting CEO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

When the DA revealed in November that former Chairperson Ellen Tshabalala had extended Motsoeneng's power to act as CEO, Motsoeneng summoned staff members to a meeting. The DA is reliably informed that Motsoeneng accused staff members of leaking documents, before threatening that the culprits would be found and immediately dismissed.  

Following the meeting, the SABC's forensic unit began an investigation in which staff laptops were seized in an attempt to find evidence of the ‘leak'. 

It was around this time that Motsoeneng sent a letter to the DA accusing us of illegally obtaining confidential SABC documents and "condoning the misconduct by some SABC employees who continue to steal information from the SABC."

This culture of fear puts pressure on SABC journalists to meekly follow Motsoeneng's editorial instructions to portray President Zuma in a favourable light. 

Over the last month:

1. It was reported that SABC staff had been instructed not to show footage of EFF MPs chanting "Pay back the money" to President Jacob Zuma in Parliament;

2. An email was reportedly sent to SABC staff informing them that they needed permission before bringing political guests on to news platforms; 

3. As reported in City Press yesterday, SABC journalists have been banned from using analysts for the State of the Nation Address, in order to "protect President Zuma"; and

4. The SABC took the extraordinary decision to give live coverage to an ANC fundraiser hosted by President Zuma on 9 January.

In June last year, Minister Muthambi promised that a new SABC CEO would be appointed within three months. Seven months later, Muthambi appears no closer to making a permanent appointment. 

Muthambi's foot dragging raises suspicions that she is keeping the CEO position open so that Motsoeneng can act as CEO for as long as possible. And, while Motsoeneng goes about intimidating staff, Muthambi is waging an unlawful intimidation campaign of her own against SABC Board Members perceived as disloyal.

Motsoeneng and Muthambi must be stopped. 

Last year, the Communications Portfolio Committee's inquiry into Ellen Tshabalala showed what is possible when parliamentary oversight is conducted without fear or favour. I will therefore be putting Motsoeneng and Muthambi's bullying tactics on the agenda at our first Portfolio Committee meeting. 

If MPs from the various parties work together, we can stop power abuse at the SABC and restore the people's faith in our public broadcaster.

Statement issued by Gavin Davis MP, DA Shadow Minister of Communications, January 19 2015

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