Icasa says SABC will abide by order - but what about the sacked #SABC8 journalists?

Journalists and freedom of speech advocates protested outside the SABC head offices two weeks ago on July 1. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

Journalists and freedom of speech advocates protested outside the SABC head offices two weeks ago on July 1. (Oupa Nkosi, M&G)

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) on Wednesday said the SABC has agreed to abide by the order to withdraw the ban on broadcasting violent protests.

Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka told News24 that the broadcaster will abide by the order of its council as issued on July 11.

The SABC was indicted on Wednesday from following through with its protest policy by the High Court in Pretoria, following an application by the Helen Suzman Foundation (HSF).

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago told News24 earlier on Wednesday that the SABC could not respond to Icasa’s order within the prescribed seven days until the HSF’s court application was heard in the High Court.

There is not yet any clarity whether this about turn from the SABC means that the #SABC8 journalists, sacked from the public broadcaster on Monday and Tuesday, will be reinstated.

The eight SABC journalists were fired on Monday and Tuesday this week. On Wednesday, they updated their urgent application with the Constitutional Court, requesting the court to intervene over their dismissals.

In the updated court papers filed on Wednesday, the journalists claim the broadcaster has engaged in conduct which breaches the Constitution and amounts to contempt of court.

“Once litigation is launched, all litigants are under a duty not to impede or frustrate the ability of opposing parties to obtain effective relief. This is so in terms of common law.”

The eight said the SABC was an organ of state and therefore was under special obligation to “respect, promote, protect and fulfill” the rights of access to court, and to effective relief.

“The SABC has violated all of these duties in this matter. It was faced with an application to the highest court in the country, seeking to declare unconstitutional and invalid its decision to embark on disciplinary proceedings against us.” 

Read more: Can the SABC be saved from itself (and Hlaudi Motsoeneng)?

The SABC ignored the eight’s application and failed to reply.

“Absent of a proper explanation, the SABC has engaged in conduct giving rise to contempt of this court. Only this court can appropriately deal with that matter.”

It emerged earlier on Tuesday that the broadcaster had fired Busisiwe Ntuli, a specialist producer for investigative programme Special Assignment, and Lukhanyo Calata, an SABC journalist in Cape Town. Economics editor Thandeka Gqubule confirmed later that she had also been sacked.

The eighth person dismissed was freelance journalist Vuyo Mvoko, whose contract was terminated.

Four others - Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp - were informed of their axing on Monday.

South african journalists, politicians, citizens and freedom of speech advocates came out in support of the now former SABC journalists on Tuesday, who are referred to as the #SABC8 on social media.

A fundraising initiative was even started by News24 editor Adriaan Basson to support the journalists while they fight against their dismissals.

By 7pm on Wednesday at least $22 294 (over R320 000) had been donated by 343 people in a day – almost four times the $6000 organisers were hoping to fundraise for the #SABC8.

To donate to the #SABC8, go here: Friends of SABC journalists

On Tuesday, around 200 Democratic Alliance (DA) supporters protested outside Parliament in support of the #SABC8.

DA national spokesperson Phumzile Van Damme led the picket the to deliver a list of demands to ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu over the recent happenings at the SABC.

Van Damme said Mthembu had failed in his duty to act as a function of oversight by turning down the DA’s request for a special meeting of the communications committee to discuss the crisis.

On Wednesday, the ruling party said the journalists were entitled to challenge their dismissals from the SABC.

ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte has said the eight SABC journalists fired this week have every right to challenge their dismissals.

Duarte told News24 that the party respected the journalists’ rights to challenge their employer’s decisions.

“This is a labour matter between the SABC and its employee,” she said on Wednesday.

“The employees have every right to go to the CCMA to take up the issues they are aggrieved about, including the matter of their dismissals.”

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