JOHANNESBURG - Any public broadcaster has a duty to the nation. Under the stewardship of its chief executive, the late Zwelakhi Sisulu and his team, a little more than two decades ago, the SABC was a national asset and a very different entity.
I was a proud member of his team then and considered it a privilege to play a role in the transformation of the SABC. We were passionate about its transformation and we unerringly steered it towards providing programming to showcase undiscovered talent and provide opportunities for producers and presenters who were previously shut out from its platforms.
‘Simunye, We are One’ - was loud and proud and saw the newly named SABC 1 mint revenues with quality, internationally acclaimed, award winning programmes. ‘Simunye’ became a unifying household jingle of the newly born rainbow nation.
The SABC was cash flush , innovative , creative because producers knew that they had to produce revenue generating programmes for the channel or their contracts were not renewed. Not the mindless endless drivel we see today that owes its existence to some influential politico.
We were not afraid to take tough decisions nor from being accountable and we understood the need of our viewers, disrupting ad dismantling the status quo that left the loyalist viewers of the previous regime uncomfortable. The SABC’s people were highly skilled, sought after and even its new executives were taken through an intensive training programme that taught us the different facets of broadcasting from directing to producing a documentary. It was the golden age of broadcasting and the SABC stood tall among its peers. That was way back in 1996.
Today, the SABC has been bludgeoned into the ground. The talent had long gone but for a few passionate producers and certain hubs of excellence and the unpleasant chaos, insecurity and dismal undertones that run through its once proud corridors has left the nation bereft of a national icon.
The pathological behaviour and unscrupulous actions of those at the helm who are responsible in bringing the SABC to its knees must be held accountable. The recent news of the proposed purging of 981 permanent employees is a sad consequence of the scurrilous shenanigans over the years that saw talented staff being replaced by unskilled untrained cadres and cronies who were clueless of the duty they had to the nation.
But all is not lost, instead of perversely defending itself, the public broadcaster and its executive could realise that this could be a period of awakening for the SABC to compensate for its terrible devastation. Always in times of crisis and more especially in times of immense transition, dramatic decisions and courage is needed to herald change.
Change that was implemented two decades ago had impacted the lives of many and made an indelible difference in the lives of young people and the millions who are influenced by what they see on television. Young presenters and producers alike, who are giants in the industry today, were given an opportunity and cut their first creative tooth at the public broadcaster.
People like Robert Marawa, Nimrod Nkosi, Carol Bauer, Arthur, Zama Nkosi and a host of others including Devi Sankaree Govender who presented an investigative programme or Eastern Mosaic before she was discovered by Carte Blanche.
The SABC of yesteryear had made an enduring difference in society and in the lives of young and old alike. That is the role of the public broadcaster and its duty to the nation. What have they done to it!
Brenda Kali is the CEO of Conscious Companies and the Founder of the Conscious Leadership Academy. She was Programme Head of SABC 1, 20 years ago and left the SABC after a personal tragedy.
The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.