SABC charges economics editor Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki with misconduct
Pretoria - The SABC has formally laid three charges against its economics editor, Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, for various incidents of misconduct.
According to the charge sheet seen by Pretoria News, the offences include intimidation of a colleague, offensive language and behaviour, and violating the Public Finance Management Act.
This is in the backdrop of continuous protests by its workers over looming retrenchments that Gqubule opposed at the broadcaster.
On Tuesday last week, the public broadcaster announced that 621 of its employees would be leaving the organisation at the end of March, shedding about 20% of its staff.
In a statement the SABC said that the monumental retrenchment process was due to its unhealthy financial situation, attributed to its massive wage bill, and implemented its Section 189 process, and would transition to the new fit-for-purpose structure effective from April 1.
In the charge, dated March 31, the broadcaster summons Gqubule-Mbeki to a disciplinary hearing, accusing her on the first charge that she intimidated a colleague, Judith Tseke, calling her a rat for refusing to take part in one of the pickets earlier this year.
It reads in part: “On the 20th of January 2021, on the 3rd floor at the SABC TV Centre in Auckland Park, you intimidated Mrs Khudu Judith Tseke by uttering the following words: ’she must not be a rat and join the protest’.”
It further stated that Tseke was a freelancer, and that they were “coming for her in March when contract renewal time comes”, and that “you are on the structure and Mrs Tseke is not”.
Gqubule-Mbeki also allegedly said: “Sophie (Mokoena), look at this child and she thinks she’s safe” and that Tseke was at the mercy of editors who would decide “whether they need her or not".
Under charge two, titled “unseemly/offensive language and behaviour”, the charge sheet reads: “You have behaved in a manner that is not appropriate, unbecoming and not in line with the values of the institution (the SABC) in that your language and behaviour was offensive and unseemly towards a fellow employee.”
Charge three accuses Gqubule-Mbeki of contravening Section 57(a), (b) and (c) of the Public Finance Management Act. It states, among other things, that an official of the organisation must ensure that the system of financial management and internal control established for that public entity is carried out within the area of responsibility of that official and that the official is responsible for the effective, efficient, economical and transparent use of financial and other resources within that official’s area of responsibility.
It accused Gqubule-Mbeki of not following due process in signing the invoices of a freelancer.
“You have acted contrary to the above-mentioned provisions and you are therefore guilty of services misconduct in the form of gross negligence,” the charge sheet continued.
If Gqubule-Mbeki is found guilty under the first charge it could lead to her employment at the parastatal being terminated.
Attempts to reach Gqubule-Mbeki were unsuccessful.
Speaking to Pretoria News yesterday, Communications Workers Union general secretary Aubrey Tshabalala confirmed that they were aware of the charge sheet, but rebuked it, saying it was a witch-hunt against Gqubule-Mbeki.
He said: “We are aware that she (Gqubule-Mbeki) is being called into a disciplinary meeting by the management of the SABC, but we believe it’s a witch-hunt because even the SABC knows that when they have a problem with one of our members they should consult us, which they have not done as yet, but have issued a charge sheet.
“Our view is that there was no incident of intimidation because the SABC itself did not follow the rules. We were part of the strike and we never saw anyone being stopped from going to work. As for the other charges, they hold no water.”
SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo could not be reached for comment.