FEAR AND LOATHING AT THE MPUMALANGA SABC
Beleaguered Mpumalanga SABC manager Quinton Lenyai has laid intimidation charges against a radio listener and a politician for calling for his resignation and accusing him of ill-treating staff.
Lenyai has been under pressure from the regional SABC staff, a political party and community members to resign since he suspended popular Ligwalagwala FM station manager Vusi “Rio” Mabunda about a year ago.
Aside from Mabunda’s suspension, senior presenters and journalists in both the radio station and television units have been complaining about Lenyai’s alleged interference in their work. Morale at the SABC’s offices is reportedly at its lowest and on-air personalities’ contracts are said to be in a shambles.
Lenyai is accused of having introduced former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s leadership style and victimising those who do not toe the line. The two were close, according to SABC staff members. Lenyai was appointed as regional manager two years ago.
Lenyai laid the charges against Ligwalagwala FM listener Geoffrey “Manyovu” Mnisi and politician Rasheed Matola – who is president of a small Mpumalanga organisation, the Residents Association of SA.
This after Mnisi led community members in a march to the SABC offices early last month demanding Lenyai’s resignation and the reinstatement of Mabunda, who was a morning drive show host at the station. Mnisi also started a campaign, #QuintonLenyaiMustFall, against Lenyai on social media.
Lenyai laid charges against Matola after the politician wrote to him requesting a meeting to discuss Mabunda’s suspension, the disproportionate allocation of airtime to the ANC, alleged mismanagement and maladministration issues, and various grievances raised by staff members.
Mpumalanga police spokesperson Sergeant Gerald Sedibe confirmed that a case had been opened: “The matter is under investigation and no one has been arrested. Once done, the docket will be sent to the director of public prosecutions.”
Lenyai did not respond to questions texted to him.
Mnisi said the charge Lenyai had laid against him was an attempt to silence him.
“We marched because he is wasting taxpayers’ money by suspending employees like Mabunda, who have done nothing wrong. If he feels that when I say Quinton Lenyai must fall it is intimidation, then President Jacob Zuma must also lay charges against all those involved in the #ZumaMustFall campaign,” said Mnisi.
Matola said that he intended to escalate the matter to the SABC board for consideration. He said Motsoeneng’s time at the SABC was over and things needed to be done the right way.
Lenyai suspended Mabunda in June last year, but only informed him of the charges against him on April 18. Mabunda’s charges relate to the alleged abuse of funds at the station’s birthday bash, refusing to hand over the company’s iPad and conflict of interest regarding his ownership of a bar lounge in Barberton. The disciplinary hearing is set down for three days next week.
Staff accused Lenyai of instructing the news unit and Ligwalagwala FM to report directly to him and telling TV assignment editors what stories to broadcast. A journalist, who is also a shop steward, was allegedly subjected to a disciplinary hearing for raising labour issues while managers were constantly threatened with dismissal.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago has previously indicated that the broadcaster would not discuss internal matters in the media.