Hardly two weeks after returning from suspension, SABC news head Snuki Zikalala is accused of removing two political reporters from covering Jacob Zuma because of their apparent allegiance to the ANC president.

The two political correspondents - Tshepo Ikaneng and Mzwandile Mbeje - confirmed on Sunday that they had been instructed not to report on Zuma.

Coincidentally, the two correspondents were excluded from covering the ANC's national conference in Polokwane last year.

An SABC staffer said on Sunday that the two were removed from covering Zuma because they were becoming a mouthpiece for the ANC president.

The staffer, who asked not to be named, defended Zikalala.

"Snuki was trying to avoid the mistakes of allowing reporters to be too blindly loyal to politicians," said the staffer.

However, these developments have been interpreted by SABC insiders as a "fight-back campaign" by a Zikalala clique sympathetic to President Thabo Mbeki.

Radio political correspondent Ikaneng said he was pulled from travelling to Dar Es Salaam on Sunday to cover Zuma's bilateral meeting with the Tanzanian ruling party.

Ikaneng said the SABC's deputy political editor for radio, Phetole Kubjane, had told him that he had been taken off the Tanzanian assignment without giving reasons.

Kubjane said on Sunday: "It's an internal matter, and it's got nothing to do with Zuma. I swopped Tshepo with someone else... In radio, no such decisions were taken to remove people from covering Zuma."

Mbeje, who has been sent to Tanzania as a television political correspondent, said he had been told that this was his last Zuma assignment.

The Mercury has learnt that Mbeje would be replaced as the main Zuma reporter by political journalist Kgomotso Sebetso.

Mbeje said on Sunday that he was told by head of TV news Amrit Manga last Thursday that he would no longer cover Zuma.

Manga refused to comment on Sunday.

It is believed that the instructions came from Zikalala, who could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Meanwhile, Ikaneng said his colleague - senior political correspondent Sophie Mokoena - made comments last month that he construed as "a pre-emptive strike".

"Sophie said to me: 'You (Ikaneng) and Mzwai (Mbeje) must know that Snuki is coming back (from suspension) and the political coverage given to Zuma is going to come to an end.'"

Mokoena could not be reached for comment.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said on Sunday that the broadcaster did not have partisan policies.

"We are governed by editorial policies of the organisation," said Kganyago.

Zikalala was suspended by CEO Dali Mpofu for allegedly leaking confidential documents, and in turn Mpofu was suspended by the board for alleged incompetence.