SABc axing uproar
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THE DECISION of the SABC chief executive officer Lulama Mokhobo to place Phil Molefe – head of news – on special leave has plunged the public broadcaster into another crisis and under the spotlight.
Opposition political parties and the ANC Youth League (ANCYL) have called for the reinstatement of Molefe with immediate effect, while one of SABC’s labour unions, Communication Workers Union (CWU), came out in support of Mokhobo.
SABC has denied reports that the decision to place Molefe on leave was politically motivated. However, The Star understands that there will be an urgent SABC board’s subcommittee meeting today to discuss Molefe’s matter.
The sources said the board members were divided on the special leave granted by Mokhobo.
DA Shadow Minister of Communication Marian Shinn said Molefe’s special leave – taken after he after apparently giving too much air time to ANCYL leader Julius Malema, confirms that the editorial independence of the broadcaster was under threat.
“When the position of a news executive is threatened as a result of reporting on individuals who have fallen out of favour with the political elite, such independence is clearly lacking,” Shinn said.
The DA said it had written to the chairperson of the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications to urgently summon the SABC board and executive management to explain the editorial crisis and its impact on the entity’s turnaround strategy.
“I will call on the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to evaluate whether the politically inspired upheavals… undermine its broadcasting mandate,” Shinn said.
UDM leader Bantu Holomisa described Mokhibo’s decision as “worrisome.”
“It if funny how the same SABC senior management always pontificates about the editorial independence of its news department when opposition parties complained about the use of the national broadcaster to promote the ruling party, paying no regard to the newsworthiness of the events,’’ he said .
Holomisa said putting someone on special leave for giving more airtime to one faction of the ruling party than the other, showed the that the ruling party’s infighting has ‘‘paralysed an already dysfunctional SABC,” Holomisa said.
ANCYL spokesman Floyd Shivambu expressed outrage at the decision, saying they were “disappointed and disgusted” by Mokhobo’s verdict.
“It is becoming clearer now that Mokhobo was appointed to pursue factional agendas in the SABC, and not fulfil the public broadcasting mandate of the SABC. She should know from the beginning that all SABC CEOs who lead the public broadcaster with a narrow factional agenda and mandate never last in the SABC,” Shivambu said.
The decision on the future of Malema and Shivambu within the ANC is expected today.
The SABC has denied reports that its decision on Molefe was politically motivated.