A female staff member of the SABC’s Cape Town broadcasting team has laid charges of assault against the public broadcaster’s head of news, Jimi Matthews, at the Cape Town Central Police Station. A case was also lodged with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Wednesday. Glenda Nevill reports.
General secretary of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa), Tuwani Gumani, said the case stemmed from an incident that took place while the SABC was broadcasting from outside Parliament on the day of the State of the Nation Address (Sona). The woman, whose name is known to The Media Online, was in charge of the outside broadcast crew. Gumani says Matthews attacked the woman – a Mwasa member – when the broadcaster was unable to receive a feed from within the National Assembly. As everyone now knows, state security had jammed network signals from within the House resulting in an epic scandal.
The woman was “victimised, harassed and assaulted verbally, physically and psychologically by a male executive manager following a technical glitch beyond her control or that of the crew she supervised”, reads the complaint to the CCMA.
Gumani said Matthews – the executive mentioned in the complaint – “breached all standard protocols and the incident happened in full view of the applicant’s colleagues and subordinates”.
“Further, upon receiving an incident report and being expressly notified that the conduct of the executive manager was unwelcome, the executive manager threatened the applicant with more deliberate and purposeful violence if any similar incident occurs in future,” the complaint read.
Gumani said as the woman’s union, Mwasa had notified the SABC of the incident. In a strongly worded letter, copied to, among others, chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and general executive of human capital services, Jabulani Mabaso, Gumani asked that the SABC formally caution and suspend Matthews, institute a formal and independent investigation into the allegations and call on Matthews to answer to the charges of assault, abuse of authority, victimisation, failure to act with care towards the SABC, and bringing the SABC into disrepute.
SABC spokesman, Kaizer Kganyago, responded to queries from The Media Online. “The SABC can confirm that a formal grievance has been lodged on the 19 February 2015, seven days after the alleged incident. It must also be noted that the grievance was lodged a few hours after the said employee was told of her impending disciplinary action against her. As per the HR processes of the SABC, the matter is being investigated and all processes to bring this matter to finality will be undertaken with the urgency it deserves,” he said. “It must be noted that the SABC cannot comment on the complaint lodged with the police. We are also aware of the matter being taken to the CCMA but our understanding is that the CCMA process does not precede the SABC’s internal process.”
The staff member filed a grievance against Matthews, citing physical and emotional abuse. Gumani said she’s been undergoing counseling following the incident. Earlier, the SABC said in an email to the complainant that while it acknowledged her grievance, it was already looking at “corrective action” against her.
“In order to avoid confusion, it is proper that a process that started first be the one that receives attention first. To this effect, your grievance will only be actioned when the corrective action is finalised,” said an email to the victim.
Gumani is livid. “I believe this is retaliatory,” he told The Media Online. “This is simply cowardly. If the SABC wanted to deal with a complaint over performance or misconduct, they should do so irrespective of her grievance. These are two separate issues,” he said.
“ We have to deal with this in the context of violence against women in newsrooms. We see young journalists fleeing newsrooms because of the abuse. And it’s not just young women, it’s all women. Look at the way Alide Dasnois was treated. Violence in newsrooms is aimed particularly at women. It’s sickening,” he said.
In an email to Mabaso, Gumani said, “If it is performance/incapacity/incompatibility, there are different processes for that” and demanded to know what the “corrective measures” mentioned were about.
“Where does SABC stand on violence against/assault of women?” he asked. He referred to the recent case of SABC employee Themba Makeleni who was dismissed by the broadcaster after assaulting a female colleague. Gumani said he was “vividly” reminded of the precedent set by the case as the SABC had taken the initiative to intervene. “Mr Makeleni, despite concessions that he was provoked, was eventually dismissed,” he said. “The Makeleni case (under Jimi) was a fluke then?”
Mwasa, in its papers to the CCMA, is asking that Matthews be summarily dismissed and that the complainant be “fully protected from personal and occupational detriment and compensated for the adverse impact of subjection to threats and abuse by the employer party”.
IMAGE: SABC outside broadcasting unit/SABC
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