“It is quite interesting to note that Mr. Herbst worked for the SABC for 28 years, from 1977 until 2005. In describing Herbst, it is stated that he left the organisation “without other employment in prospect because of the pervasive and general corruption which still prevails”. This clearly demonstrates that he was comfortable working for a state machinery whose aim was to advance the system of Apartheid. To imply that there were no challenges or corruption at the SABC pre-1994 is ludicrous.”
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago in response to an Ed Herbst article on The Media Online.
A year ago I wrote an article, headlined ‘The SABC’s toxic cocktail: Mokhobo, Motsoeneng and Molefe’ for this website. It was an SABC timeline relating to the effective dismissal of the former SABC acting chief executive, Phil Molefe by the ANC’s then newly deployed CEO of the SABC, Lulama Mokhobo. Molefe was illegally appointed by then board chairman, the ANC acolyte Dr Ben Ngubane, because it was believed that Molefe would be the sort of ruling party imbongi Luthuli House demanded. When Molefe refused to obey a direct and publicly-issued order by Blade Nzimande to stop broadcasting stories about Julius Malema, he was hurriedly placed on ‘special leave’ by Mokhobo who was, thereafter, “too sick” to have a meeting with him. Then Mokhobo made nefarious attempts to replace Molefe with the far more trustworthy ANC propagandist, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Using copious references and quoting mainly black journalists, I analysed the situation and predicted the probable outcome.
My article was vindicated last year when:
- On 25 February, 40 days after my story was published on this website, the majority of the SABC’s board members announced the termination of Motsoeneng’s appointment as acting COO. When this was predictably but unilaterally overturned by two ANC proxies on the board, Dr Ben Ngubane and Thami ka Plaatjie, the majority of board members resigned in disgust. Motsoeneng was thus the catalyst for the implosion of the board.
- On 12 April the media trade union MWASA said that it feared the SABC could be placed under administration and called for it to be changed into a Chapter 9 Institution. “A perpetual dark cloud of depravity, ineptitude, self-interest and corruption looms large over the SABC,” it said.
- On 30 August Media Monitoring Africa described Motsoeneng’s call for a “70% good news” broadcasting approach as “deeply disturbing”. This call by Motsoeneng was also criticised by opposition parties.
- On 10 September communications minister Yunus Carrim tabled a shocking report by the Auditor General which showed that the SABC had regressed under acting COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng and CEO Lulama Mokhobo. The DA spokesperson on communication, Marian Shinn, called for Motsoeneng’s dismissal saying that during his tenure management, staffing, financial and editorial crises had escalated. A report in The Times was headlined, “SABC blows R1.5 billion”. Cosatu expressed shock and Shinn requested that the report be referred to the SIU.
- On 6 October lawyers representing the suspended head of SABC news and current affairs, Phil Molefe, denied a statement in parliament by communications minister Carrim in which he said that Molefe had accepted R2.4 million settlement in return for walking away from the Corporation. Carrim said he had been informed by the SABC that this was the case. Where did this false information which caused the misled Minister to, in good faith, mislead parliament originate? Could it have come from Mokhobo or Motsoeneng?
- On 17 October City Press revealed that Motsoeneng had ordered that the widely popular show, The Big Debate, should no longer be broadcast because it was too critical of the Zuma administration. This is widely criticised by civil society and the show was immediately snapped up by eNCA.
- On 6 November Carrim slapped down Motsoeneng on set top boxes
- On 24 November City Press revealed that a “damning” provisional report by public protector Thuli Madonsela has decried the abuse of power and maladministration by senior executives and former board members of the SABC”. The newspaper said the report, slammed “unlawful” behaviour by Motsoeneng, and “improper conduct” by Mokhobo.
- On 1 December the Sunday Independent revealed that the multimillion-rand contract authorising the flighting of the SABC’s 24-hour news channel on DStv, negotiated by Motsoeneng, was coming under scrutiny from the unions and the civil society coalition, Save Our SABC (SOS) and could well be challenged in court.
- On 3 December, Thinus Ferreira on his TV with Thinus website revealed the SABC cannot afford to pay for programmes and is constantly embarrassed when scheduled and announced programmes do not materialise.
- On 11 December City Press revealed that on the watch of Mokhobo and Motsoeneng, the SABC deliberately did not cover on its evening TV news broadcast the fact that President Jacob Zuma had been booed at the FNB stadium during Nelson Mandela’s memorial service. The state broadcaster also suppressed the fact that there had been worldwide outrage about the fake signer Thamsanqua Jantjie and thereafter, as part of its cover up, made no attempt to interview Jantjie. SABC spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago sought to justify this despite the fact that William Bird of Media Monitoring Africa said this censorship by omission was fundamentally in conflict with the SABC’s code of ethical newsgathering and reporting.
- On 22 December the Sunday Times quoted union BEMAWU members as saying news teams have been instructed by Motsoeneng not to broadcast anything that could embarrass the Zuma faction. This was condemned by the Right2Know campaign.
In response to the ‘Toxic Cocktail’ article Kganyago reverted to one of the usual default responses by any ANC-controlled institution.
The first is to label the critic a racist or a coconut/askari depending on their ethnicity. The second is to accuse the critic of having been a supporter of the apartheid regime or to be hankering for a return of that era.
In this case the racism epithet would not work because the majority of the people quoted in the article – including the editor of The Star, Makhudu Sefara, who said that Motsoeneng’s censorship insulted the memory of the Struggle – were black.
So he settled for the second, seeking to metaphorically necklace me by effectively coupling my name to all the evils of apartheid: racial segregation, the Bantustans, job reservation, the Vlakplaas hit squads etc. “This clearly demonstrates that he was comfortable working for a state machinery whose aim was to advance the system of Apartheid.” All this without ever having met me. What is appallingly racist about this statement is that the suspended Phil Molefe – to cite just one example – also worked at the SABC during the apartheid era but Kganyago only sees this as evil if the SABC employee is white.
I had to earn a living and I chose to do so as a reporter/photographer in the closing decades of the apartheid era and the first decade of the new dispensation. The SABC was the best institution available to me in that regard.
But Kganyago’s ad hominem cheap shot works both ways.
Let me illustrate the point by pointing out a few of the minor shortcomings of the ANC state machinery that he is now comfortable working not merely with but for – something that became self-evident and a matter of world acknowledgement when it censored the recent booing of Jacob Zuma.
Given the widely acknowledged implosion of our health and education systems, the fact that the most bloated per capita civil service in the world is dysfunctional and pervasively corrupt, continuing electricity and water supply problems etc etc, I will look at just two because they are areas where the SABC was and is morally obliged to use its ability to reach close on 30 million people and to raise awareness of these concerns, but it has failed to do so because of ANC pressure.
“More than 330 000 people died prematurely from HIV/AIDS between 2000 and 2005 due to the Mbeki government’s obstruction of life-saving treatment, and at least 35 000 babies were born with HIV infections that could have been prevented.”
The New York Times said that this resulted in an estimated loss of 3.8 million years of life.
At the time that then President Thabo Mbeki and his then health minister Manto Tshabala Misimang were preventing the distribution of anti-retroviral medication, the SABC should have spoken out and did not do so. It did not do so because the SABC does not challenge the prevailing ethos within the ANC. SABC board member Christine Qunta was among the “leading South Africans” who were then taking full page advertisements in Sunday newspapers praising Mbeki for his courage in this regard. The contemporary silence of the SABC was thus predictable.
Our food security has been compromised since 1994 because of the relentless war of attrition that the ANC has waged against white farmers. As a result the number of farmers dropped from 120 000 in 1994 to less than 36 000 now and we have become a food-importing country. “According to the SAIRR and the activist group Afriforum, farmers are three times more likely to become murder victims than ordinary South Africans – their murder rate is 98.8 per 100 000 per year. In addition, anecdotal evidence suggests that farm attacks are often more brutal than other murders and assaults.” Max du Preez, A Rumour of Spring South Africa – South Africa after 20 Years of Democracy (Zebra Press 2013).
De facto policy
The SABC has an unwritten but de facto policy of not sending camera teams to the scene of farm murders and not covering the very few resulting trials. This was confirmed by the heads of security of the various agricultural unions who have also told me the SABC also does not cover their news conferences on farm murders although eNCA does. I also know this from monitoring SABC TV news bulletins and from personal experience when I worked for the SABC as a TV news reporter.
In its complicit silence on the ANC’s unconscionable stance on HIV/Aids during the Mbeki era and on farm murders the SABC has blood on its hands.
This is no more Kgnyago’s fault than apartheid era abuses were mine but he chose to attack me in this regard and this is a right of response reply.
As a backup to the allegation that “… he was comfortable working for a state machinery whose aim was to advance the system of Apartheid”, he created a straw man: “To imply that there were no challenges or corruption at the SABC pre-1994 is ludicrous”. Nowhere in the Toxic Cocktail’ article did I imply this.
This part of his response did however raise an interesting question: was the SABC better off under apartheid than now? It is one I will seek to respond to in two future columns.
Want to continue this conversation on The Media Online platforms? Comment on Twitter @MediaTMO or on our Facebook page. Send us your suggestions, comments, contributions or tip-offs via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com