A former SABC journalist has told how damning testimony by Phumla Williams of the emotional trauma she experienced under former communications minister Faith Muthambi, brought back his own memories of a “terrible time”.
Williams, the acting director-general of the Government Communication and Information System, testified at the state capture inquiry how she was stripped of her duties because Muthambi wanted to “steal at all costs”.
Kgaogelo Magolego, a former SABC Limpopo region reporter, said his encounters with Muthambi destroyed his journalistic career.
“It was a terrible time. The Muthambi that Phumla described this week is exactly the one I dealt with.”
Magolego opened up after testifying at the SABC inquiry into editorial interference, chaired by the executive director of the Press Council, Joe Thloloe.
In his submission, Magolego detailed how Muthambi tightened her grip on the SABC and how she openly influenced editorial decisions.
Magolego said those who did not toe the line were targeted. Muthambi had labelled him an “EFF mole” after he refused to interview only ANC members during news events.
Muthambi’s stranglehold over SABC journalists intensified to such a degree that executives feared her, Magolego said.
“She would walk up to a news crew and make them stop whatever interview they would have been busy with, to do what she wanted at the time. She always had a long queue of councillors, traditional leaders and individuals purported to be community activists that she wanted us interview,” he said.
Magolego told of a clash with Muthambi during a press briefing in Lephalale, during which Muthambi was to brief the community about digital migration.
“Muthambi charged that my brief was wrong and that I asked boring questions, and I was forced to change the angle as she was not interested in answering questions about digital terrain migration.”
Later, Magolego received phone calls from SABC executives in Polokwane informing him that he had embarrassed the minister and he would be fired.
“She called them to complain. They never bothered to find what happened from us.”
The episode would lead to Magolego’s exit from the SABC. He was found guilty at a disciplinary hearing and dismissed.
However, he took his case to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, which found the process was procedurally flawed, and ordered the SABC to compensate him accordingly.
Attempts to reach Muthambi this week were unsuccessful.