The union representing an SABC staffer who accused news head Jimi Matthews of assault during the SONA address in February and filed a grievance says the SABC isn’t playing fair. Glenda Nevill reports.
Tuwani Gumani, general secretary of the Media Workers Association of South Africa (Mwasa), says of all departments “required to submit reports regarding the SONA mess, she is the only one targeted for specialist attention”. [State security famously jammed the signal in Parliament ahead of President Jacob Zuma’s SONA, causing chaos for broadcasters and journalists covering the speech.]
The SABC, rather than looking in to the woman’s grievance, said she had only filed the complaint “a few hours after the said employee was told of her impending disciplinary action against her”. In an email, the public broadcaster said that in order to “avoid confusion” its case against her should “receive attention first”. “To this effect, your grievance will only be actioned when the corrective action is finalised,” the SABC said at the time.
“They tried to create the impression that she was a ‘bad performer’ (as a counter-charge) and they erroneously opted for the DC route (performance issues have a separate procedure to misconduct) and they issued her with some baseless ‘verbal warning’ for which she was expected to sign, making it a written warning,” Gumani told The Media Online.
“Now that they have concluded their DC (disciplinary) process, what still stands out is the claim of assault,” he said. This has been cancelled three times.
“SABC is demanding that witnesses avail themselves for cross-examination. The delays and postponements are designed to confuse diaries and render the witnesses unavailable,” he added. “The insistence that Hlaudi (Motsoeneng) should preside on the case is of concern in that he too finds convenience in delays.”
Gumani said the union believed “there are different strokes for different folks and that protectionism and patronage seem to drive the delays” but the member was “quite resolute” in pursuing the grievance against Matthews.
He said the union’s reading “until convinced otherwise, is that these rolling postponements and submission of new dates have come to define a battle of attrition in which the employee is expected to succumb to pressure, a display of corporate power in which decisions on new dates are made without consultation and abuse of delegated authority where she is regarded as nothing but a beholden employee reliant on the whims of generosity of those wielding borrowed power”.
He said Mwasa was considering its options regarding the next step to take “which may well include making public calls for the boycott of the SABC over and above the legal routes available”. But, he added, Mwasa remained open to constructive engagement.
The SABC did not answer questions posed by The Media Online at the time of posting.
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