SABC editor Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki rejects ‘bogus’ charges
Pretoria - SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki has rejected the three counts of intimidation, the use of offensive language and violating the Public Finance Management Act levelled against her, saying the charges were “trumped up” and “bogus”.
In an interview with the Pretoria News yesterday, Gqubule-Mbeki said the SABC had cooked up the charges against her and others for opposing retrenchments and the privatisation of the public broadcaster.
The Pretoria News reported yesterday that the SABC had formally charged Gqubule-Mbeki with three counts of misconduct. She is accused of intimidating a colleague during a picket over retrenchments, using offensive language and behaviour and violating the Public Finance Management Act by signing off on payments without following due process.
Gqubule-Mbeki said a group of people at the SABC, led by board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini, group chief executive Madoda Mxakwe and group news executive Phathiswa Magopeni, was behind a campaign to vilify and force her and others out. She said they were being targeted for campaigning against the commercialisation of the ailing corporation.
“The charges are entirely bogus and untrue. They are part of a long programme of whistle-blower victimisation and I’m not the only leader of the anti-retrenchment and the anti-commercialisation movement they are gunning for.
“If you look at the first charge, it leads to the second charge which is a splitting of the charges, which is not allowed. Charge one never happened. There was a discussion between myself and a young lady and Sophie (Mokoena) and that’s it.”
Gqubule-Mbeki accused Makhathini, Mxakwe and Magopeni of trying to mute her and “consolidate power” at the SABC. She added that the trio were working with some journalists and editors to smear and tarnish her image for opposing the commercialisation of the SABC.
Makhathini, Mxakwe and Magopeni yesterday referred all questions to SABC spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo, who said: “The SABC can confirm there is a formal process under way about the matter. Two of the charges relate to an affidavit submitted by a fellow journalist containing allegations of harassment and intimidation. The other emanates from an internal forensic audit process. Therefore, the claim the CEO and head of news are behind the charges is rejected with the contempt it deserves.
“The SABC is obliged to protect all employees, create a productive working environment, maintain organisational discipline and ensure good governance across the board.”
The matter comes against the backdrop of the SABC’s decision to retrench more than 600 employees at the end of last month.
Gqubule-Mbeki said she was being used as a scapegoat in respect of the violation of the Public Finance Management Act because she was not even the signatory on the matter she had been charged with. “The signatory was Anton Snyman and it was him who signed it, not me,” she said. “Once they are done with me with their underhanded ways, they will proceed with my other colleagues.”
It is understood those colleagues are SABC current affairs producer Busi Ntuli and foreign editor Sophie Mokoena. The duo could not be reached for comment.
Gqubule-Mbeki said the charges against her stemmed from an SABC board meeting in November after four employees had made a damning presentation to Parliament on the state of the newsroom. This called for an end to retrenchments and the commercialisation of the SABC, she said.
“In November last year, a board meeting was held and those who wanted to evacuate us did not win the day because we hold interdicts that forbid us from being dismissed or disciplined from the SABC. So they had to trump up the charges because they could not do it any legal way,”
Gqubule-Mbeki said she has approached the high court to apply for a stay of the disciplinary hearing to protect herself and other whistle-blowers in terms of the Protective Disclosure Act which protects whistle-blowers against victimisation. “I’m not questioning the right for them to discipline me. I’m confident of vindication because I have truth and justice on my side.”