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SABC 8 are in it for the long haul

Politics

Johannesburg - The struggle for an independent public broadcaster will be long and tedious, but the brave SABC 8 journalists are good for the journey.

They approached the Constitutional Court late last year to try to force the National Assembly to appoint a commission of inquiry into the shenanigans at the broadcaster.

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The SABC building, Auckland Park. Picture: Karen Sandison

However, the highest court in the land dismissed their case for direct access but did not pronounce on the merits of the case, saying it lacked the jurisdiction to deal with it.

Radio sonder grense executive editor Foeta Krige, economics editor Thandeka Gqubule and senior journalist Suna Venter  were suspended after defying Hlaudi Motsoeneng's orders not to cover an anti-censorship protest. Picture: Itumeleng English

On Sunday, former SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule told The Star there were no grounds to proceed with the case.

Gqubule is among the SABC 8 who were fired for speaking out against the SABC’s censorship policy. 

The others are Suna Venter, Foeta Krige, Krivani Pillay, Busisiwe Ntuli, Lukhanyo Calata, Jacques Steenkamp and Vuyo Mvoko. 

They took the matter to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration and were all later reinstated, except Mvoko.

Gqubule said that when they launched the Concourt challenge, they were without work and the country was approaching the local government elections.

“We were concerned about the manipulation of news ahead of a hotly contested election."

"Another thing that we wanted was the scrapping of the protest policy. We also wanted the 2016 editorial policy to be struck down,” she said.

They had to amend their legal papers at the time because Parliament had refused to play its oversight duty, she added.

When the SABC 8 succeeded in convincing the courts to strike down the SABC’s decision not to flight footage of violent protests, the broadcaster had “capitulated” and said it would not implement the policy.

Communications regulator Icasa also directed the broadcaster to scrap the controversial policy.

An ad hoc committee to probe the SABC’s fitness to hold office was finally set up and, according to Gqubule: “Parliament admitted that they were remiss in their role in the separation of powers. So there were no grounds to proceed with the matter when they themselves agree. We welcome the Concourt’s decision on this matter”.

Even before the Concourt had decided on the matter, said Gqubule, the SABC 8 had already reached a decision to withdraw the application following the adoption of the ad hoc committee report by the National Assembly recently, among other developments.

“We believe that the Constitutional Court case, and overwhelming public support we received, were the essential reasons for the appointment of the ad hoc committee.”

The SABC 8 would now look forward to giving Parliament and the SABC’s interim board, among others, an opportunity to implement the ad hoc committee’s recommendations.

“We will not rest until our newsroom is once again truly transparent, free and inde- pendent.”

Gqubule added: “The road to getting an independent broadcaster will be long, but we are good for the journey as the SABC 8. We are entering a new phase of struggle for a truly independent public broadcaster.”

Political Bureau

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