Communications Minister Faith Muthambi has been summoned to Luthuli House to answer about the crisis at the SABC which has culminated in questionable policy decisions that border on censorship.
The fact that decisions were made at the public broadcaster without consultation – including the blackout of violent protests – has irked the ANC. The ANC’s communications subcommittee chairperson Jackson Mthembu today said it amounts to a change in the policy direction of the ruling party.
“We want the policy reversed ... decisions like these need extensive public participation. I can tell you, as the chief whip of a majority party in Parliament, I did not know. The ANC was not informed,” said Mthembu.
He explained the ANC subcommittee he chairs was unanimous that there was a serious crisis needing urgent attention, and was not contradicting messages that suggested otherwise by ANC spokesperson Zizi Kodwa.
Mthembu mainly blamed the current state of affairs at the SABC on a lack of expertise at top managerial level.
“It is the ANC’s considered view that the various crises engulfing the SABC are a consequence of a lack of leadership at the institution,” he said.
The corporation has dominated headlines since eight senior journalists were suspended for speaking out against the growing censorship of news, followed by the unexpected resignation of acting CEO Jimi Matthews.
Matthews then spilled the beans about chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s power grab and the climate of fear at the SABC.
Mthembu also pointed to a collapse of corporate governance within the SABC due to Motsoengeng’s ongoing legal battles, vacancies at managerial levels and a board that “leaves much to be desired”.
The board, he said, also needed to be strengthened “to ensure the broadcaster delivers on its mandate”.
Mthembu was at pains to answer whether the ANC will call for a halt to the disciplinary proceedings against the journalists pending its meeting with Muthambi and a suggested inquiry into its affairs.
He said he could not go beyond a statement which captured the ANC’s concern about policy changes or editorial decisions that undermine the Constitution in that they limit freedom of expression or encroach on media freedom.
However, he said he would raise that issue with Muthambi when she comes to account.
Meanwhile, Mthembu insisted that the ANC never influenced any editorial decisions as alleged by Matthews. At the weekend, Matthews claimed that the governing party had given an instruction to SABC bosses to restrict coverage of the Economic Freedom Fighters in the 2014 national elections.
“We have never asked anybody in the SABC to speak for the ANC. Nobody there represents the ANC,” he said as he challenged Matthews to reveal who he was conniving with.
“The fact that those in charge have successively been accused of this (political interference) is worrying,” he said.