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SABC policy: inquiry launched


By Angela Quintal

The tide may be turning at SABC in Auckland Park.

Political commentators allegedly banned from the airwaves may soon be back on air and an independent inquiry into the alleged blacklisting of individuals has been announced.

This morning analyst Aubrey Matshiqi is expected be among those heard on radio after a spell in radio's equivalent of exile. He was one of four commentators who was banned allegedly on the instructions of the head of SABC's news and current affairs, Snuki Zikalala.

SABC reporters have apparently been told by their line editors to use Matshiqi.

Matshiqi confirmed this week that on at least six occasions he was told by SABC producers that he was no longer in favour and would not be used.

Leading the campaign to restore the SABC's credibility after a week of damaging allegations, is the public broadcaster's chief executive officer Dali Mpofu.

Yesterday he confirmed at a meeting of radio staff members that he would appoint an independent two-member commission of inquiry into the allegations that individuals were blacklisted at the behest of Zikalala.

He was expected to give television staff the same message.

Staff members were given the guarantee that their identities would be protected and that they could speak freely to the commission. The commission will be formally announced Saturday, including its terms of reference and who will serve on it.

It is expected to be similar to the one set up last year by Mpofu into the failure of SABC television news to broadcast footage of Deputy President Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka being booed by a section of a crowd at a Women's Dam rally in Utrecht.

Mpofu told staff members there were no timeframes, but that he did want the commission to conclude its investigation as soon as possible.

Rumours that SAFM staff members were circulating a petition in support of popular presenter John Perlman could not be confirmed yesterday.

Perlman this week contradicted SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago, who had denied that individuals were being banned, by saying that he did have personal experience that people were not being used "by instruction".

An angry Zikalala told radio staff members that Perlman's statement had been unacceptable and had given ammunition to those attacking the SABC.

Perlman was also called into a meeting with the acting head of radio news and his executive producer. The feeling among staff members at SABC earlier this week was that Perlman's head might roll.

However, yesterday a staff member said there was an expectation that the tide had turned against Zikalala, who returned to the broadcaster after a spell as a public servant in the Labour Department.

In a statement yesterday, DA MP Dene Smuts welcomed Mpofu's move to appoint an inquiry.

"When SABC CEO Dali Mpofu was appointed last year, he committed himself to 'the diversity of news and plurality of views which the Broadcasting Act requires'.

"This week he invoked those values again in undertaking to enquire into the censoring of a number of political commentators from participation in the public broadcaster's programmes. We look forward to resolute action after such enquiry."

Smuts said that she could attest "from the outside" that participants are from time to time invited to and then disinvited from discussion programmes.


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