SABC: Cabinet out of touch
ANC a divided party, say media activists
THE CABINET’S response to the crisis at the SABC was out of touch with reality and showed how divided the ANC was at present, media activists said yesterday.
This was after the cabinet issued a statement confirming its support for media freedom, but taking no position on the decision by SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to ban coverage of violent protests and destruction of property, or the suspension of journalists opposed to the move.
While the cabinet said the role of the public broadcaster was “vital for the development of our young democracy”, it said the “discussion” over the SABC’s editorial decisions should be “held in a constructive manner that would serve to strengthen our democracy”.
It expressed its confidence that the SABC would “continue to serve the interests of all the people of South Africa”.
Lawyers for Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS: Support Public Broadcasting Campaign, among civil society organisations that complained to the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) over Motsoeneng’s ban, have asked for a ruling on the matter by Icasa’s Complaints and Compliance Commission to be made public.
The ruling has been submitted to the Icasa council but was not released on Thursday as expected.
Responding to the cabinet statement, Media Monitoring Africa executive director William Bird said: “To comment only to that degree, wow, that’s disappointing.”
The cabinet was expected to lead but had failed to do so.
It was “unfortunate” that it hadn’t “nailed its colours to the mast” by either supporting the position of Jackson Mthembu, chairman of the ANC national executive committee subcommittee on communications, or previous statements by the ANC supporting the ban on coverage of public violence.
Mthembu this week slammed Motsoeneng’s decision and said Communications Minister Faith Muthambi must account for governance failures at the SABC.
Bird said the cabinet’s suggestion that there was a “discussion” over the ban amounted to a denial of the reality that it was censorship.
This went against ANC policy, and the fact that the cabinet had not come out clearly on the matter showed how deep the divides were in the ANC, Bird said.
Sekoetlane Phamodi, campaign organiser of the SOS Coalition, said either the cabinet was so disengaged from the issue that it was ready to accept Muthambi’s assurances that the broadcaster was “doing just fine”, or, like the SABC board and senior management, it was “equally delinquent in discharging its duty to ensure that the 10-year long SABC crisis is arrested and resolved once and for all”.
“It is patently obvious that the SABC is in crisis.
“Eleven CEOs in seven years, and two collapsed boards in three years cannot be ignored. It is business unusual, and is detrimental to our having free and fair elections when we go to the polls, again, on August 3.”