SABC head of news and current affairs, Phil Molefe. Photo Melinda Stuurman

The ANC Youth League has questioned the SABC's decision to put its head of news and current affairs Phil Molefe on special leave.

It accused the public broadcaster of having done this because Molefe had given suspended ANCYL president Julius Malema too much airtime, as reported by The Star newspaper

“It is becoming clearer now that (chief executive Lulama) Makhobo was appointed to pursue factional agendas in the SABC, and not fulfil the public broadcasting mandate of the SABC,” the league said in a statement.

“She should know from the beginning that all SABC CEOs who lead the public broadcaster with a narrow factional agenda and mandate never last at the SABC.”

The Star newspaper said Molefe was put on leave after he apparently defied his senior executives' orders to give less airtime to Malema.

He also allegedly refused to obey orders given to him by Makhobo and chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

The ANCYL said placing Molefe on special leave was politically motivated and they would not be shocked if he were ultimately fired.

“The faction that influences appointments of CEOs believe that they are in control of everything in South Africa today.”

The ANCYL called for Molefe to be immediately reinstated.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the ANCYL was reacting to a “speculative report” by the newspaper.

“This is a speculative report that doesn't have any basis at all,” he said.

“What is strange is that all the newspapers have different stories and they all quote 'reliable sources' at the SABC. Something must be wrong,” said Kganyago.

The Sowetan newspaper reported unnamed sources as saying Molefe was put on special leave because he was accused of leaking information to the newspaper and the Sunday World about Motsoeneng.

Some former and current SABC executives recently asked Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to investigate Motsoeneng's alleged misdemeanours and his rise in the SABC management ranks despite not having a matric certificate, the newspaper reported.

According to the report, the decision by the SABC suggested it was in talks with Molefe to buy him out of his employment contract, which had become the norm at the public broadcaster.

The Communication Workers Union (CWU) welcomed the decision to put Molefe on special leave.

“Molefe has a track record of being extremely hostile to the trade union movement and of being biased in terms of broadcasting,” CWU national spokesman Matankana Mothapo said in a statement.

“This is the isssue we and other progressive organisations have been raising, about the manipulation of the SABC newsroom by senior people there.”

He said CWU was worried about the negative publicity the SABC was getting.

“We urge the minister of communications to investigate thoroughly the leaks of confidential information to the media by some SABC board members and senior managers,” said Mothapo. - Sapa