File photo
Cape Town – Parliament will advise the SABC to conduct its own investigation into the "alleged break-in" at the broadcaster's offices on the premises, the institution said on Sunday.

"Parliament has received a report of theft which allegedly took place on Friday evening at the offices of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in the Marks Building of Parliament," spokesman Moloto Mothapo said.

A preliminary investigation by Parliament's security services on Saturday had uncovered the following:

* there was no sign of forced entry at the office in question. There were two access doors to the office – the one that was ordinarily used for entry was locked while the alternative door, which was kept locked at all times, was unlocked;

* Parliament's night security staff indicated that at about 11pm there were several SABC staff members working at the said office; and

* the [stolen] laptops' security locking cables remained untampered with, suggesting that someone with a key detached the laptops.

"Parliament security services will study all the video footage around the building to establish if there were any unauthorised or suspicious persons around the scene of the alleged theft," he said. "While, as Parliament, we continuously employ measures to tighten security we also rely on entities under whose care office facilities are entrusted to exercise necessary security, care, and vigilance.

"Parliament will advise the SABC to thoroughly conduct its internal investigation and provide the institution with a full report, which will assist us to get to the bottom of this alleged crime," Mothapo said.

Earlier, City Press newspaper reported that despite police security at all entry points in Parliament, the SABC offices were broken into and at least five computers were stolen on Friday night.

Concerns had been raised as to why journalists’ computers were targeted. Eyebrows had also been raised because there was no sign of forced entry into the newsroom.

Parliament had frequently invoked its status as a national key point to justify stringent security measures. It was therefore unclear how the SABC offices were targetted, the newspaper reported.

The SABC offices were in the Marks Building which also housed the opposition parties’ offices. However, there were supposed to be police guards at the entrances of all the buildings as well as at all parliamentary gates.

“SABC journalists interviewed by City Press, who cannot be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media, confirmed the theft of five laptop computers. The journalists said it was concerning that their computers were targetted and other portable electronic equipment in the office was left untouched,” City Press reported.

Two parliamentary sources reportedly said in light of the recent break-in at the offices of the chief justice in Johannesburg last month the SABC break-in was concerning. The Democratic Alliance said the break-in and removal of multiple computers of senior journalists was "stunningly suspicious".

“In light of ongoing intimidation of SABC journalists, particularly those who spoke out against SABC management during the SABC inquiry, we view this latest ‘break-in’ as part of a much bigger co-ordinated campaign to intimidate and threaten SABC journalists,” DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said.

The DA urged the South African Police Service (SAPS) to investigate this matter urgently. It was appalling that to date not a single person had been arrested for the death threats and break-ins at homes of the so-called “SABC 8”, including the shooting in the face with an air rifle of one of them, she said.

“Given a history in seizing laptops and involvement in campaigns to intimidate journalists – as was revealed during the SABC inquiry – the DA will request that the Inspector General of Intelligence Dr Sethlomamaru Dintwe investigate the State Security Agency’s (SSA) possible involvement in this latest break-in and ongoing intimidation of journalists.

“In a time of increasing state capture, and when the state’s intelligence is now seemingly being used to intimidate journalists instead of protecting our people, we trust that the inspector general will thoroughly investigate the alleged tapping of SABC journalists and will deal with those responsible.

The DA will not stand for any attempt by captured individuals or families to control and propagate the messages in the media,” Van Damme said.