The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has launched an investigation into leaks of “important and confidential information” to media and opposition political parties emanating from within the broadcaster. It also slammed the Democratic Alliance for “blatant condonation of criminality” for encouraging the leaking of sensitive documents. Glenda Nevill reports.
Spokesman Kaizer Kganyago told The Media Online a decision to investigate the source of the leaks had been taken at the “highest level” – its board and its executive committee, Exco.
“We have [since] instituted an investigation to find the culprits and deal with them accordingly,” he said.
Democratic Alliance communications spokesman, Gavin Davis, earlier issued a statement saying the SABC and its controversial chief operating officer (and acting CEO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng, had “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”.
Davis said that following the meeting, the SABC’s own forensic unit “began an investigation in which staff laptops were seized in an attempt to find evidence of the ‘leak’”.
Kganyago said this was “not a secret as the DA would like to make it look like”. He accused the DA of being one of the organisations to benefit from leaks. “We have already written to them last year requesting them to stop encouraging people to leak information to them. All they are trying to do is to protect their sources who leak information,” Kganyago said. “In the letter we sent them, we mention that the DA being a political party that has representation in Parliament, has access to all the mechanisms that are available in law to legally obtain any information that they require from the SABC.”
He said the opposition was blatantly condoning criminality in encouraging leaks, particularly as the official opposition “is charged with, among other things, making sure that the rule of law is upheld and respected. The DA parliamentary members have taken oath to uphold the laws of the republic of South Africa”.
Davis said Motsoeneng’s 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’ enhanced the “culture of fear” that “puts pressure on SABC journalists to meekly follow Motsoeneng’s editorial instructions to portray President Zuma in a favourable light”.
Asked whether it was true that laptops used by staff had been seized, Kganyago said, “We are not in a position to divulge the ins and outs of the investigations at this stage”.
Davis listed several issues he said have taken place at the broadcaster relating to editorial matters including that SABC staff had been “instructed not to show footage of EFF MPs chanting ‘Pay back the money’ to President Jacob Zuma in Parliament.
In response, Kganyago said the SABC had “an editorial policy and the editorial is entitled to deal with the stories anyway they deem fit without being dictated to by the DA or any other pressure group”. He said the same was true for the commentators the SABC chose to use in its news programmes. But he denied the DA’s claim that “SABC journalists have been banned from using analysts for the State of the Nation Address, in order to “protect President Zuma”.
“It is not true. Our news division will deal with Sona the best way that it deems fit. I implore the public to watch and see. No commentator or analyst has an inherent right to be part of the plans that we are having,” said Kganyago.
Asked why the SABC covered live a party political fundraiser hosted by Zuma and if the SABC would cover DA or EFF fundraisers too, Kganyago responded that the SABC covered “the activities of the President of the country who represents all the people of the Republic. It must be noted that that the DA is not representing the public in this matter but their own political agenda”.
The DA also accused communications minister Faith Muthambi of reneging on a promise that a new SABC CEO would be appointed within three months. “Seven months later, Muthambi appears no closer to making a permanent appointment,” Davis said.
“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”.
Davis said last year’s portfolio committee inquiry into former board chairwoman’s (lack of) qualifications show was is possible when “parliamentary oversight is conducted without fear or favour”.
He said he would put “Motsoeneng and Muthambi’s bullying tactics on the agenda at our first Portfolio Committee meeting” when Parliament reconvened in February.
“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.”
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 email@example.com.