The SABC headquarters, with a Sentech tower in the background, at Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Photo: Cara Viereckl

Johannesburg -

The SABC appears to have done an about-turn since reports last week that it would not carry any live broadcasts of next week’s Cosatu congress.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi tweeted at the weekend that SABC journalists had approached him, saying the broadcaster would “scale down” its coverage of the congress for “political reasons”.

He said he would investigate the claims and would be meeting the head of news at the SABC, Jimi Matthews, on Monday.

Vavi confirmed to The Star late on Monday that he had met Matthews and that there would be “comprehensive coverage” of the event.

“Met Jimmy Mathews - head of SABC news - they will cover congress comprehensively - he insist that’s always been the intention - I’m happy,” he later tweeted.

The trade union federation’s spokesman, Patrick Craven, said the SABC had made a request on Monday morning for a “briefing” by Cosatu on the congress.

An SABC journalist, who asked not to be named, said political journalists had been told last week there would be no live broadcasts from the congress.

But this decision appeared to have been reversed, the journalist said, as technical staff had been requested to provide information for their accreditation for the Cosatu congress during Monday’s weekly political desk meeting.

Craven confirmed that he had received “a few more names” from the SABC on Monday, but the list had been considerable because the broadcaster had sought accreditation for about 30 staff prior to this already.

The journalist suggested the about-turn might be linked to Friday’s Mail & Guardian story on the issue, saying senior managers in the SABC might have been put under pressure as a result of the report.

Decisions on coverage were taken by senior editorial staff and could not come from anyone junior to Matthews, the journalist said.

Concerns had been raised by political correspondents in a meeting with Matthews last Monday, when complaints were made about footage of expelled ANC Youth League president Julius Malema being edited out by senior managers at the broadcaster.

“The Julius issue was blatant - it started with Marikana,” the journalist said.

The journalist said Tuesday’s coverage of Malema’s planned visit to Gold Fields mines at Westonaria would show whether there had been a shift in coverage of him since last week’s meeting.

“The thing is, you can’t have a situation where one party is dominating and they have the powers to remove [someone like Matthews],” the journalist said, referring to whether editorial directives were coming from above.

Vavi is expected to face a strong push to unseat him at the Cosatu congress from those hoping to secure a leadership loyal to President Jacob Zuma ahead of the ANC’s national conference in Mangaung.


Vavi has been an outspoken critic of corruption and the ethical morass the ANC is said to find itself in. - The Star