SABC news boss disappointed in staff

2012-09-14 13:30
Thinus Ferreira
Cape Town – SABC news boss Jimi Matthews has decided to publicly lash out at scared, angry, frustrated and demoralised news staff of the beleaguered public broadcaster, upset that they went to the media about instructions given over how to cover the controversial public figure Julius Malema and the Marikana mine massacre.

Renewed turmoil within the struggling public broadcaster – stretching from the SABC newsroom to the upper echelons of the SABC's executive management where personnel have been suspended – comes as the SABC plans to launch its own 24-hour TV news channel with the help of funding from the pay TV platform MultiChoice.

In August the SABC said the 24-hour news channel would launch "beginning September" thanks to substantial investment from MultiChoice. The SABC is not answering any questions about the news channel and why it hasn't launched yet.

Now the SABC's acting head of news, Jimi Matthews, has lashed out publicly against members of his own staff in the wake of new allegations of a blackout of any reporting about the expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema.

"I am very disappointed with the turn of events," said Matthews in an SABC statement issued late on Thursday.

'Warned against lazy journalism'

"Instead of debate, certain members of my staff ran off to other media houses claiming that I had banned Malema from the airwaves. Nothing can be further from the truth. I asked for responsible journalism and intellectual engagement."

The SABC says on 3 September, Matthews – with the political news team – only appealed to his staff for a more nuanced reporting on the Marikana mining massacre and related stories.

"It is untrue that the SABC News department has issued any instructions banning Julius Malema. What news management has appealed for, is for more responsible and in-depth reporting on the issues," says the SABC.

"His appeal was for context. He pointed out a number of angles that the mainstream media were not covering, that were worth pursuing. He encouraged the team to engage intellectually so as to get a better grip on the issues. He warned against lazy journalism and running with the herd."


Meanwhile the SABC has suspended its chief financial officer, Gugu Duda with immediate effect. She is represented by advocate Dali Mpofu, the former SABC CEO who is also representing the SABC news boss Phil Molefe who has been placed on "special leave" five months ago and has not yet had a disciplinary hearing.

The SABC last week suspended its acting head of procurement, Nompilo Dlamini. The SABC board wants to get rid of SABC board member Cawe Mahlati. SABC board chairperson dr Ben Ngubane on Tuesday told parliament the SABC board has "degenerated into serious dysfunctionality".

Public protest

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is holding a public protest march to the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters on Friday – the first-ever march against the public broadcaster from the party.

The IFP claims news bias at the SABC. The trade union Mwasa plans public picketing and a march against the SABC on Wednesday. The trade union is demanding an "SABC that works".