FEAR AND LOATHING AT THE MPUMALANGA SABC

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

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.

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