Former communications minister Faith Muthambi has been fingered in an investigation into editorial interference at the SABC. File picture: Kopano Tlape/GCIS

Johannesburg - An inquiry into editorial interference at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) found that former communications minister Faith Muthambi and ex-board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala interfered in decision making in the broadcaster's newsrooms.

The report states that editorial executives took instructions from "people with no authority in the newsroom".

"The evidence shows that from the year 2012 up until the year 2017, SABC executives took instructions from people with no authority in the newsroom, for example, members of the SABC board (Ellen Tshabalala) and the minister for communication (Faith Muthambi). 

"The executives thus failed to execute their duties in terms of the editorial policies. The commission further found that Nothando Maseko, Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane and Nyana Molete were pivotal to the execution of instructions from [former SABC COO] Hlaudi Motsoeneng, [former head of news] Jimi Matthews and [former head of news after Matthews] Simon Tebele. They succumbed because of threats of dismissal from their immediate superiors."

The inquiry, headed by executive director of the Press Council Joe Thloloe, investigated allegations of editorial interference for five months. 

Thloloe said the SABC suffered from abuse of power that was used to terrorise staff and circumvent editorial policies. Although the inquiry found no "direct line" between the newsroom and the ANC headquarters Luthuli House showing direct political influence, the ANC "hovered" over the newsroom.

"The Inquiry found an organisation crippled by pain, anger and fear and by frustration, anxiety and apathy,  inattentiveness, detachment and helplessness. A witch-hunt for “enforcers” will not heal the corporation, it will divide an already fractured institution."

The probe recommended the establishment of an editorial committee to uphold editorial policies and to be chaired by the head of news. The committee would be the highest point of referral by editorial line managers and would uphold the SABC editorial policies and ethical standards. 

The committee chairperson would report to the group CEO. 

African News Agency (ANA)