Alleged plot to collapse Lotus FM and sell station revealed in explosive SABC report
The commission looked into political interference, which led to a culture of fear at the SABC. The report was compiled by veteran journalist and Press Council director Joe Thloloe, and Stephen Tawana from MMM Attorneys, and covers the period between 2012 and 2017.
SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini said the final report had been submitted in February this year but had not been released, as they were inquorate and had to wait until a new board was appointed.
“The report sets out details and findings with respect to a very painful period in the history of the public broadcaster. The SABC board is deeply concerned about the findings on individual employees, named in the report as being implicated in editorial interference In this regard, the SABC commits to taking urgent disciplinary action against those implicated, in terms of the SABC’s disciplinary code and policies,” Makhathini said.
An earlier report found that Indian community station Lotus FM had several incidents of staff being sexually harassed by management at the station.
This report noted “allegations that there’s a plan to let Lotus FM collapse, in order to privatise it and sell it to people who have already been identified”.
IFP MP Narend Singh said he had been aware of a plot to start an alternative radio station and broadcast facility to Lotus FM around 2015 to 2016, when the SABC had a policy of playing 90% local and 10% international music.
“The 90/10 policy did not go down well with the majority of Lotus FM listeners,” he said.
Singh said he raised the matter with various committees and took it up with then communications minister Nomvula Mokanyane.
“There is truth in the allegations that even some at Lotus FM were trying to set up alternatives,” he said.
Former Lotus FM programme manager Santosh Beharie said he was the one who had exposed the plot to destabilise the station. He said he had come across information, through WhatsApp and email messages, talking about the plot.
Beharie said he had reported the matter to the SABC’s board, but ended up having his contract terminated three weeks before it was due to end. He said one of the people behind the plot also ended up being fired.
Ashwin Trikamjee, president of the SA Hindu Maha Sabha and one of those fighting for Lotus FM’s survival, said the allegations did not come as a surprise, as he had come across “whispers” about the station being sold to private individuals.
However, he believed this would not happen as the station had never been a commercial radio station, but was there to serve the community’s interests.
Former SABC board member Krish Naidoo said this was the first time he had heard of efforts to privatise Lotus FM. He said the station had a pivotal role to play within the Indian community.