Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency(ANA)

Johannesburg - The SABC’s head of news Phathiswa Magopeni has told the Zondo commission that when she first stepped into her new role she found an environment that was on “autopilot” and “decay”. 

Magopeni was testifying at the commission on Tuesday. She is part of a group of SABC executives who testified at the inquiry’s investigation of state capture at the public broadcaster. 

The SABC has for many years suffered from the financial and managerial crisis, the commission has heard. 

Magopeni was appointed in early 2018 and said there were a number of issues with the organisation when she arrived. She said the leadership crisis that existed did not help the broadcaster in performing its mandate. 

"The fact that you had people who were supposed to be leading the newsroom who were not trusted by journalists within the newsroom. Those people had no legitimacy and they did not command any authority to be respected by journalists within the newsroom because they were associated with a period where things happened that were not supposed to be happening in the newsroom,” Magopeni said. 

She reiterated that the financial difficulties at the organization have affected how journalists can perform their duties. 

With political interference, Magopeni explained an incident where Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams attempted to interfere with the SABC’s coverage of an event earlier this year. Ndabeni-Abrahams later apologised for attempting to interfere with the work of the SABC. 

Magopeni explained that political interference had no business in the newsroom. 

The SABC’s chief financial officer Yolande van Biljon also testified briefly confirming that the SABC did not receive financial compensation from Gupta owned newspaper The New Age when it aired its breakfast briefings. 

SABC CEO Mzwamadoda Mxakwe also testified to the dire state faced by the broadcaster. He said the company was insolvent and in need of cash injection and more government support. 

The commission will continue hearing SABC related evidence on Wednesday. 

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