The Organisation Against Tax Abuse (OUTA) reiterates its support for the campaign against censorship at the SABC and calls for an urgent investigation into the manner in which the public broadcaster is being run.
“While we welcome the ANC’s eventual call for an investigation into the SABC, we must point out that the ruling party has until now kept quiet about the way the public broadcaster has been run by the chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng,” says Wayne Duvenage, Chairman of OUTA.
Duvenage goes on to say that “government and the minister of communications, Faith Muthambi, openly allowed Motsoeneng to ignore a court order declaring his appointment as ‘irregular and unlawful’ after an investigation by the Public Protector”.
In her report on the SABC aptly titled When Governance and Ethics Fail, public protector Thuli Madonsela found that Motsoeneng had fabricated his matric qualification, purged senior staff and increased his salary irregularly from R1.5m to R2.4m in one year. He also gave other irregular salary increases to certain staff supporters. When the SABC ignored the public protector’s findings, the DA took the SABC and the minister to court. Despite losing the court case, Motsoeneng is still in office.
“We find it quite amusing that after all the prior charges and evidence of Mr Motsoeneng’s questionable and irrational behaviour, leadership within the ANC has the audacity to only now question his conduct. We find the Minister’s lack of action against Mr Motsoeneng rather disdainful and a sign of disrespect to the people of South Africa who are expected to pay for SABC’s services.”
OUTA believes that it is highly irregular to allow this situation to develop to the point of clear political interference in the running of the public broadcaster. “We condemn the SABC leadership’s disciplinary action against several journalists who have done nothing wrong in their questioning and defence of the South African public’s right to uncensored news.”
OUTA feels strongly about the public’s constitutional right to freedom of information from the public broadcaster, which informs them of political developments and happenings within their country. “News censorship to disguise the reality of the situation on the ground is taking us back to the dark days of apartheid,” says Duvenage.
“We cannot allow the public broadcaster to become a victim of state capture. As such, we demand Mr Motsoeneng’s immediate removal from his leadership position within the SABC. Our young and growing democracy needs free and fair media, with journalists who should be encouraged and enabled to do their jobs without fear of transgressing an unjust political agenda. Furthermore, we also demand a full investigation into the allegations of corruption at the SABC.”
Duvenage added that unless these matters are addressed, OUTA will seriously consider a public campaign for advertisers to withdraw their advertising spend from the SABC, along with a call to support the public’s right to discontinue to pay TV Licenses under such unacceptable conditions. “South African citizens need to stand together on this very important issue. Media freedom is not negotiable, especially in the light of upcoming elections.”