SABC postpones hearings of suspended employees indefinitely;
Solidarity goes to court to revoke suspensions and test the constitutionality of the censorship instruction
10 July 2016
The SABC postponed the disciplinary hearing of the three suspended employees, Thandeka Gqubule, Foeta Krige and Suna Venter indefinitely. The hearing was due to start on Monday, 11 July. However, the three employees remain suspended. Trade union Solidarity, which represents the three journalists, said the mere postponement of the hearings is not acceptable. According to Solidarity, the disciplinary process must be abolished in its entirety.
Solidarity also announced that it would approach the Constitutional Court in the coming week for direct access to test the constitutionality of the censorship instruction. Also during this week Solidarity would approach the Labour Court to obtain an interdict against the SABC’s disciplinary process, pending the Constitutional Court case.
The SABC laid disciplinary charges against the three employees because they had allegedly distanced themselves from a censorship instruction. Under the instruction no coverage may be given to the Right2Know campaign’s protests against the SABC ban to broadcast violent protest action.
The hearings of the other three employees, Busisiwe Ntuli, Jacques Steenkamp and Krivani Pillay, who were charged after having sent a letter to SABC Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, objecting to the direction the SABC has taken, was due to take place on Friday, but this hearing, too, was postponed. Those three have also been charged because the contents of the letter was leaked to the media.
“The censorship instruction is clearly unlawful. It is in direct violation of the principles of freedom of speech and the public’s right to know. The unlawfulness of the instruction makes the entire suspension unlawful. We cannot allow it that journalists who merely want to do their job remain suspended for having embraced South Africa’s constitutional principles. What adds to the urgency and significance of this case is the fact that South Africans are going to the polls on 3 August, and they have the right to know what is happening in the country. It is not up to the public broadcaster to decide what the public may or may not know,” Solidarity Chief Executive Dirk Hermann said.
Meanwhile, Solidarity expects the Icasa ruling on the SABC’s censorship decision this week as well, probably as soon asMonday 11 July. “If the ruling goes against the SABC’s censorship decree, then the charges against and suspension of the employees must be revoked immediately. Hlaudi Motsoeneng must then be charged and suspended immediately,” Hermann said.
Statement issued by Dirk Hermann, Chief Executive: Solidarity and Johan Kruger, Deputy Chief Executive: Solidarity, 10 July 2016