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SABC used and abused

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Complaints to higher-ups like former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi were almost always greeted with indifference.

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In his decade of leading the ANC, and almost nine years as South Africa’s head of state, Jacob Zuma provided many laughs perhaps as distracting us from the malfeasance of his administration, if not the incompetence of those entrusted by him.

In almost a decade, Zuma provided us with several court jesters, willing to subject themselves to public humiliation if only to show their loyalty to “Number 1”. Some of these clowns were not even ideologically centred, they simply bent to the whims of Zuma and whoever was whispering in his ear.

Take for example Hlaudi Motsoeneng. His elevation from the SABC’s backwater in the Free State to be the de facto chief executive is nothing short of spectacular, never mind that he had no matric certificate and was woefully incompetent at his job as the broadcaster’s chief operations officer.

Motsoeneng ran the public broadcaster like a dictatorship, forcing out competent managers, while kowtowing to his patron at the Union Buildings. Motsoeneng would often pull rank, and threaten SABC board members. Complaints to higher-ups like former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi were almost always greeted with indifference.

So fast-forward to November 2018, and Motsoeneng has suffered another blow. The Constitutional Court dismissed his appeal against a cost order after eight journalists at the SABC were fired for protesting his ban against violent images on the public broadcasters news bulletins.

So when Motsoeneng eventually takes his turn at the State Capture Inquiry in Rosebank, those wise men at Multichoice who entered into a deal to licence the SABC’s archives for R533 million will also have to give account. For that deal Motsoeneng was promised a R33 million bonus, R11.4 million of which was paid to him.

For all this to go ahead, the SABC changed its policy stance on encryption for digital terrestrial television (DTT) set-top boxes to align with that of Multichoice. Multichoice does not want DTT boxes to come with encryption. Essentially this will prolong their monopoly of conventional pay-TV in South Africa.

Numerous governments have abused the SABC as their toy, attracted by its reach and its ability to disseminate propaganda.