News

Mvoko’s show now off the record

2016-03-20 15:00

SABC news show canned after host refuses to be censored by bosses sensitive to portraying Zuma and Guptas in a bad light

A plan to discuss alleged state capture by the Gupta family on a live television show has become SABC TV anchor Vuyo Mvoko’s greatest mistake: it has cost him a show that was starting to gain popularity.

On the Record was launched in mid-January but it was silently canned on Thursday following disagreements between him and his SABC bosses about the content for that evening.

Mvoko had been in trouble with his bosses barely two days earlier, on Tuesday.

He was accused of being “harsh” in his interview on the show the previous night with North West ANC chairperson and premier Supra Mahumapelo.

It appears the Tuesday fracas led to the newsman’s show being scrutinised by his bosses.

Sources within the SABC, who asked not to be named for fear of being victimised, said Mvoko had spent most of Thursday trying to convince his superiors that it was essential to discuss state capture.

They said “there was no way a discussion mentioning the Guptas could happen without putting [President Jacob] Zuma’s name in a bad light”.

Mvoko is said to have also planned to interview Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas on the show that night.

This was also refused. Jonas had claimed that afternoon that he had been offered a ministerial position by the Gupta family.

One of the editors, who also asked not to be named, corroborated this.

“Vuyo was hellbent on continuing with the show, but he was not going to have his way.

“It went on the whole day and, at some point, he angrily told them it was either he continue with his planned schedule for the evening or they could forget it ... that’s how it all came to an end.

“He was not willing to compromise and they also became aware that he was working on securing an interview with [former ANC MP] Vytjie Mentor, which made it even worse for him.”

Soon after the news broke that Jonas had been offered the job of finance minister to replace the incumbent at the time, Nhlanhla Nene, Mentor became the first politician to directly accuse the Guptas.

She said they had offered her a ministerial job while Zuma was seated in the next room in their Saxonwold house in Johannesburg.

President Zuma has denied this.

“This is how it is for us at the SABC. We live by censorship, and what’s worrying is that it becomes clear when we don’t go big on news items that are trending, that are being pursued by other broadcasters,” said an editor.

Another reporter accused his SABC bosses of protecting the government and political leaders without consideration for the national broadcaster’s editorial integrity.

“We are getting used to throwing stories in the trash daily because they are seen to be negative and casting the government, the ANC and President Zuma in a bad light,” she said.

She said reporters were often asked to rewrite their scripts according to the dictates of news chiefs at the SABC.

This was an attempt to give the reports a positive spin towards the government or politicians, she said.

Asked to give examples of stories that were dumped, another reporter said a report that showed disgruntled ANC members holding placards reading #SupraMustFall and trying to storm the party’s provincial general council meeting in Madikwe, North West, on Sunday, was dropped.

“We also dropped the story of ANC Women’s League president Bathabile Dlamini saying: ‘All of us in the NEC have our small skeletons and we don’t want to take them out because hell will break loose.’”

Another journalist recalled seeing a colleague being ordered to dump a script about the Public Protector’s investigation into state capture by the Guptas.

“It is normal for bulletin editors to get a call soon after something has played and being ordered not to schedule it any more,” he said.

Mvoko took to social media to apologise in advance to his audience for the fact that his show was not going to be aired that night or in future.

His Facebook post on Thursday at 8.14pm read: “Regret to announce that there’ll be no #OnTheRecord tonight – or in future for that matter – for reasons I won’t get into right now. Thanks for the support. Sincere apologies for the abrupt end.”

There were more than 200 responses by midnight to Mvoko’s post, and they mostly expressed shock and dismay.

The post had been shared more than 200 times by yesterday.

Mvoko referred City Press to SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago for comment.

But all that Kganyago was prepared to say in response to the list of questions emailed to him by City Press was: “The change of our [SABC] schedule, both on radio and television, has nothing to do with City Press.”

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