The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) has hit back at the Sunday Times following its report that the public broadcaster’s board resolved at a meeting in October to use the services of the State Security Agency (SSA) to “manage leaks”.
The publication reported that according to the minutes taken at the meeting it was agreed that SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini would be mandated to approach the SSA to assist in managing leaks and identify loopholes. It was further suggested that the process would include vetting staff who dealt with board information.
According to the Sunday Times the plan may have come about as a result of the leaking of minutes earlier this year which dealt with complaints that the board’s deputy chair, Mamodupi Mohlala-Malaudzi and board member, Marcia Socikwa interfered in work of management. The claim has been denied by both parties.
“It is totally false that the SABC Board took a decision ‘to spy on its staff members’. No such decision has been taken. The SABC is further concerned that the newspaper used confidential board minutes to sensationalise and deliberately distort information, thereby causing panic and a trust deficit between the SABC Board and employees,” said SABC acting spokesperson Mmoni Seapolelo in a statement on Sunday.
The publication reported that the proposal was made by SABC board member Mary Papayya.
“Further, it is completely unfair and misleading for the Sunday Times to attribute a board discussion to only one board member, Ms Mary Papayya, and have no regard to the final resolutions taken by the full board.”
Seapolelo said the SABC upholds the rights to freedom of expression and the right to privacy for all its employees.
“In fact the Board has in the past taken a decision that no journalist should be subject to SSA processes of any kind in order to protect the constitutional rights of the media.”
However, she added that the broadcaster does deal with the SSA on several key issues such as the disclosure of confidential company information to third parties and the media.
“The SABC has witnessed several disclosures of confidential company information in the past year and the Board is duty bound to ensure that confidential information relating to the organisation is protected. In this regard, we are no different from any other company in South Africa which would seek to protect the confidentiality of its lawful discussions and activities. In protecting the public broadcaster, the SABC will always act within ambit of the law,” Seapolelo said.
“The mere fact that the Sunday Times newspaper is in possession of confidential Board minutes and quotes its contents is indicative that there is a problem that needs to be dealt with. Whether the SABC engages with the SSA or private security experts, it remains entitled to investigate breaches of confidentiality and to protect its information.”