Phil Molefe
Phil Molefe

SABC news head denied trip to world conference

By Time of article published Apr 23, 2012

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Moffet Mofokeng

SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane and chief executive Lulama Mokhobo apparently denied news boss Phil Molefe a chance to travel to Australia to attend a conference of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association (CBA).

The Sunday Independent can reveal that Molefe, who is on special leave pending talks regarding “his conduct”, was stopped from flying to Brisbane, Australia, to attend the four-day conference.

SABC board member Suzanne Vos will instead represent the public broadcaster at the event.

Ngubane “cancelled” a news workshop in March – at a huge cost to the SABC – because he and Molefe could not agree on whether board members should attend the gathering.

A total of 60 people – consisting of, among others, regional and assignment editors – were scheduled to attend the workshop at a hotel in Ekurhuleni.

This has raised concern within the SABC and the continent.

Staff at the SABC are concerned that Ngubane and other top SABC executives are interfering in operational matters at the public broadcaster while broadcasters in Africa said the absence of Molefe at the CBA conference was “a major setback”.

Albertos Auchamub, president of the Southern African Broadcasting Association, said Molefe was Africa’s candidate for the president of the CBA.

“We consider this a major setback for the entire continent,” said Auchamub, who is also director-general of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation.

He said his association wanted Molefe to take over the reins, because the Southern African Broadcasting Association wanted to push the “African agenda” at every international platform.

“Phil is accomplished to fulfil this role. He is one of the two vice-presidents of the association.

“The Caribbean, Asia and Africa were unanimous that (Phil) is our candidate. This is a significant setback for the entire continent,” Auchamub said. The association’s conference, which runs until Tuesday, started yesterday.

Two independent sources told The Sunday Independent that the board was getting “more and more into operational matters” at the SABC.

“What has a board member got to do with international broadcasters? People who go there are journalists and editors, because issues dealt with there pertain to the newsroom.

“If, for example, there is a tsunami in New Zealand, we will discuss how we could get the feed at the SABC. That’s an operational issue, not a board matter,” a source privy to the dynamics at the SABC said.

On Friday, Ngubane said Vos had volunteered to go.

He said Vos was then allowed to go to Australia since he and Mokhobo could not attend the conference. “It was an invitation to the SABC. Surely, I can go or anyone can go,” Ngubane said, and later added that there was nothing operational about the trip.

He said he postponed – and not cancelled as has been alleged – the news workshop because Molefe wanted him to write a letter and give reasons why he should attend the meeting. “If management is taking such an attitude, that’s a serious development,” Ngubane said.

Yesterday, SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the news workshop was postponed “for reasons that are internal and, obviously, we don’t want that to be in the public domain”.

He said the SABC did not incur any cost because this was a delay, not a cancellation.

Last week, The Sunday Independent reported that Mokhobo threatened to take disciplinary action against Molefe for refusing to give to her, every morning, the daily news diary.

Molefe’s argument was that this would amount to interference in editorial decisions within the SABC, while she was adamant that she, as editor-in-chief at the SABC, was within her rights to demand the diary.

The battle for the diary is significant because the different factions within the ANC want control of the public broadcaster ahead of their elective conference in Mangaung in December.

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