The SABC has once again been marred by allegations of editorial interference and abuse of power by its executives.
This after the public broadcaster’s group executive of news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni, reportedly lodged a formal complaint with the board against SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe and board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini.
Magopeni, according to a TimesLIVE report, accused Mxakwe of attempting to remove her from her position after she was charged last week with negligence and bringing the broadcaster into disrepute.
Magopeni was charged over the broadcast of an episode of the SABC’s current affairs programme, Special Assignment, which was aired in October in contravention of an interdict issued by the Pretoria High Court. She is expected to face an internal disciplinary hearing over the matter in December.
But according to her complaint to the board – in a letter dated 29 November – Magopeni claims the Special Assignment issue was being used to “hound” her out of the SABC even though she was not responsible for the airing of the programme.
She reportedly accused Mxakwe and Makhathini of allegedly putting pressure on her to approve an unscheduled interview with ANC president Cyril Ramaphosa in the lead-up to the recently concluded local government elections. Magopeni apparently refused the request from her bosses and got into hot water over the issue.
She claims the Special Assignment error, her refusal to agree to the Ramaphosa interview and a subsequent complaint from the ANC about the SABC’s election coverage were being used to get rid of her.
Magopeni also claimed that the SABC newsroom was gagged on reporting about her charges and disciplinary hearing, adding that she was being silenced from speaking out about the charges in public.
“It is my considered view there is a concerted effort by Mr Mxakwe to push me out of the SABC with the assistance of group HR using the Special Assignment matter.
“With the public political statements being made about me having affected the electoral prospects of the ruling party, I feel extremely unsafe and I fear for my life. I cannot keep quiet,” TimesLIVE quoted Magopeni’s letter.
ANC slams SABC election coverage
Last week, the ANC’s head of elections Fikile Mbabula criticised the SABC and Magopeni for the public broadcaster’s local government election coverage. He claimed the SABC was to blame for low voter turnout and the ANC’s dismal performance in the local polls.
Mbabula accused the SABC of being “a mouthpiece for the opposition” and claimed the SABC’s current affairs programme, Service Delivery Gauge, focused on governance failures in ANC-run municipalities while ignoring municipalities under the control of the DA.
“The SABC was a big problem… let me tell you openly today, we were just decent not to attack you in public,” Mbabula said.
In response to the allegations, the SABC issued a statement saying it rejected in the “strongest terms” the ANC’s claims.
“The ANC has not submitted any written evidence to substantiate these allegations. SABC management believes that SABC News covered these elections in line with its editorial policies and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s election regulations. SABC management, therefore, rejects minister Mbalula’s allegations in the strongest terms.”
Compiled by Thapelo Lekabe