City Press on Sunday carried the story that political analyst and presenter of Interface, SABC3’s political talk show, Eusebius Mckaiser, had resigned quite suddenly this week. Mckaiser, however, said there was more to the story than what was written and laid out his side of the story in a Facebook post. Here is the full text of his response to City Press.
I presented Interface and was also the content producer on every show. For
these roles, the SABC wanted to pay me a mere R4 000 monthly wages, that is R1000 per show as producer/presenter. So I had no choice but to resign. The
alternative is to undervalue my professional skill set, and my dignity.
That said, I discovered that SABC3 was open to meeting my request for a
better salary at least half way. But the news and current affairs division,
which is in charge of Interface, declined the channel’s help. Apparently
Jimi Matthews, head of news, said, “It is not only about the money.”
I do not know if that is true. But I trust my source 100%.
I also do know, from a number of now ex-colleagues, that at least one guest,
Minister Jeff Radebe, and his communications team, including Mr Tlali Tlali,
had complained to the SABC, possibly directly to Mr Phil Molefe, that I had
been “disrespectful” by grilling him too hard on the legality of the
President’s extension of the Chief Justice’s term of office. Mr Matthews was
asked by Mr Molefe to investigate the matter.
So we should not dramatise the fact that the immediate fallout between me and the SABC was commercial in nature, and that I had indeed resigned. Any
regular recent viewer of the program will know that a murkier truth explains
why my line manager, Mr Matthews, would not accept assistance from SABC3 to
pay me a decent salary.
However, having to leave the SABC can be good for one’s CV. It means you are
guilty of journalism. I will fearlessly continue, as an analyst and a
broadcaster, to hold political actors accountable, but in the media outlets
that do not shirk their social duty to be independent, analytic and
Here are some additional thoughts:
First, I did not listen to Ashraf Garda’s media show on SAfm this morning [Sunday]. Apparently Jimi Matthews was on, explaining his side of what had happened. Of course, it is the SABC’s platform, so it is unsurprising that they did
not invite me to comment, or participate. That very omission is in itself a
rehearsal of the SABC’s lack of full commitment to examining all sides of a
Second, apparently Jimi said he “regretted” my departure. Let me be blunt
about this. Jimi has an excellent, in my view, vision, for turning around
news and current affairs division at the SABC. I witnessed this numerous
times during the preparation we did at the SABC for the elections news
coverage, and in at least one lengthy meeting between me, him and my
executive producer of Interface.
In fact, Jimi even pushed me to ask more probing questions than I had done of some interviewees. ( I won’t amuse you with the name of which interviewee in particular he thought I was too soft on!) I have zero doubt, conceptually speaking, that he knows what to do, and could, if he had the space, return the news and current affairs division to its better days.
HOWEVER, Jimi is hamstrung. And he, no doubt, like all of us, has bills to pay, so responding to being hamstrung is not always a mere principled calculation. There are no regular calls from politicans or Luthuli House to the SABC (so far as I know). But the politicians do not need to call the SABC!! Self-censorship on the part of a sufficient number of SABC employees suffice to keep our politicians happy. The chilling effect of previous interference reverberates culturally. That is far more powerful than politicians needing to call SABC executives every morning.
The implication of this is that, indeed, Jimi is no doubt sincere in saying he regrets my departure, because we were on the same wavelength about the need for a show that is unashamedly dogged in holding our politicians and newsmakers accountable for their views and their decisions. I fully believed, when I met him, that he “had my back” as they say. We had little doubt that the model, bluntly put, for Interface, should be BBC’s Hard Talk.
(My executive producer was less comfortable. But, and this made me really believe in Jmi’s news sense, Jimi’s response to that discomfort was the rather colourful analogy that, if we merely tell our viewers there is a new presenter, one McKaiser, but that otherwise all is the same, then they will watch for a few weeks but realise that although the house is newly painted it is stuck in the same boring neighborhood; the programme itself had to relocate to a different place. I agreed. Excitedly. Naively…)
In the end, however, I was not big enough fish for Jimi Matthews to fight for my retention, and for his own right, in fact, given his title, to be allowed adequate space and resources to enact his turnaround strategy for his division. I understand that he was hamstrung, but I must confess that I am disappointed that Jimi opted to not engage my departure (no counter-offer; no phone call for days until I called him; apparently refusing SABC3’s offer to help retain me; etc.); he did not do enough to help me stay on in the face of silent and not-so-silent pressures on him. My resignation made life easier. For everyone.
The bigger implication is that the vision Jimi has for the SABC’s news and current affairs division will, in the end, be pointless, if he is unable/unwilling to resist his peers/bosses who are averse to, well, gutsy journalism. And that, clearly, is now happening.
The public, in the end, are the real losers. The rest of us can switch to commerical radio and television outfits. (Indeed, many of my (ex)-colleagues at the SABC listen to me regularly on Talk Radio 702, clearly their preferred choice to SAfm (?). One VERY VERY senior executive even lamented how good etv’s news reporters, in his view, sound, compared to their SABC counterparts. Of course there are some excellent journalists at the SABC (but let me not mention their names, lest they get into trouble, on account of doing journalism), but many of them have to display seriously nimble footwork in negotating their all too complicated work terrain) ).
Most of the population do not have these options to flip channels. And perhaps, for that reason, we should not simply walk away from the public broadcaster, as I did, but put pressure on it to function properly. My own resignation, given this, is probably not helpful. But there are limits to one individual’s effort. We do, however, have a collective responsibility to SOS – to Save our SABC.