News / South Africa / State Capture

Makhosandile Zulu
3 minute read
5 Sep 2019
1:59 pm

SABC the first place to start to capture minds, a nation or govt, Zondo hears

Makhosandile Zulu

Krivani Pillay of the SABC 8 says the SABC and its newsroom should be protected.

The SABC offices in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency

The commission of inquiry into state capture on Thursday heard from one of the infamous SABC 8, Krivani Pillay, that the SABC is “the first place you will start if you want to capture minds, or capture a nation or for that matter government”.

Pillay told the chairperson of the commission, Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo, it was because of this reason that it is important to protect the SABC’s newsroom and the organisation.

Pillay was responding to an affidavit by the former acting SABC CEO Jimi Matthews who was responding to Pillay and Foeta Krige, another SABC 8 journalist, over comments Matthews had during a meeting on May 31, 2016.

Pillay and Krige were summoned to the meeting by the then SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng following a Sunday radio broadcast where his decision to ban visuals of violent or destructive protests were discussed and heavily criticised.

According to Pillay and Krige, Motsoeneng mentioned at the meeting that the SABC was being cleaned up and that the Sunday radio show where his decision was discussed should be scrapped and that those who failed to adhere to his instructions would be ousted from the broadcaster, among other things.

At some point during the meeting, Matthews reportedly said: “It is cold outside, if you do not like it you can go, you’ve got two choices, the door or the window.”

In the affidavit Matthews submitted to the commission, he said the decisions, which Pillay earlier in testimony described as “bizarre”, were made by Motsoeneng.

Matthews suggested in the affidavit that he was not in support of these decisions but said it was difficult to disagree with the then COO or to express dissenting views and that he was carrying out Motsoeneng’s instructions.

Furthermore, Matthews accepted that he did not stand up to Motsoeneng and voice his concerns about these decisions or Motsoeneng’s stances, reiterating that “it was extremely difficult to disagree with him or take a different view in an atmosphere that was highly corrosive”.

Matthews’ affidavit reads: “I also accept that it was an unfortunate choice of words but I was merely trying to warn the journalists of Motsoeneng’s approach to dissenting views and to what had become a trite method of the way he operated that anyone who opposed him or voiced a dissenting view would face the prospect of dismissal but I deny any imputation that by my presence in such meetings I had associated myself with his accusations that such staff were guilty of destabilising the SABC and somehow on my own or by association assumed responsibility for the dismissal of the SABC 8 in circumstances when my resignation had preceded their dismissals.”

Pillay said Matthews’ affidavit was the first time he gave such a response since the meeting in May 2016.

She said as a Hindu and God-fearing person she believed that “to err is human and to forgive is divine” and that Matthews’ explanation in the affidavit was the closest to an explanation “or even to stretch to an apology” that came from him.

However, Pillay placed it on record that if Matthews deemed and felt this way he had many opportunities to come forward because it was really important to show how the SABC newsroom was abused at the time.

“There is a lot of trauma in our newsroom that is very slowly starting to heal,” Pillay said.

She accepted Matthews’ explanation and said she hopes that the commission can in some way or another in its findings or recommendations ensure “that this kind of reasoning will never hold water in the SABC newsroom again”.

“We need to have unfailing leadership for such a massive institution.

“Everybody wants their hands on the public broadcaster, it’s the first place you will start if you want to capture minds, or capture a nation or, for that matter, government,” Pillay said.

She added that now was the time to ensure that the SABC newsroom and the organisation were duly protected.

ALSO READ: Zondo hears of Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s ‘ramblings’ as SABC COO

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