/ 18 May 1990

The Broederbond – getting well into the SABC’s picture

Despite talk of deregulation and privatisation, the state is covertly tightening its control over what has traditionally been its chief propaganda arm, the South African Broadcasting Corporation. Far from reflecting the spirit of glasnost, which State President FW de Klerk is selling to such effect in the outside world, the task group appointed last month by the government to look into broadcasting in South Africa is heavily weighted towards older forms of Afrikaner control. The group is made up of securocrats and state bureaucrats and reflects the resurgence of the Broederbond as a secret political force. More than half of the task group’s membership is made up of known members of the Afrikaner secret society, and at least 50 percent are believed to be connected to one or other of the state’s intelligence agencies. 

The announcement of the task force comes against the background of a warning last month by African National Congress international affairs spokesman Thabo Mbeki that control of the SABC would become a definite problem in future negotiations between the ANC and the government. Addressing the Cape Town Press Club Mbeki described the SABC as a ”powerful voice” but went on to express concern that it remained the property of the National Party and that the people who ran it should be appointed by only ”one of the parties in the conflict”. 

Mbeki stressed the SABC would have to be seen to be acting impartially, even before an interim government was in place, if there was to be progress in negotiating a settlement progress in negotiating a settlement. 
Observers have expressed surprise that no apparent effort was made to include interest groups other than that of the government in the task force. ”What is suggested is that the task force is looking more deeply into means of continued control by the Nationalists than it is into anything else,” one media watcher said. Appointing the group Home Affairs Minister Gene Louw described the task force as consisting of ”experts in the fields of broadcasting, communication and technology”. 

But in reality they include: a major general attached to the Bureau for Information in Pretoria; a South African Defence Force brigadier whose job description is that of ”Director: Tele-communications and Electronic Warfare” at SADF headquarters in Pretoria; a representative of the National Intelligence Service; a veteran of Eschel Roodie’s discredited Department of Information; a Foreign Affairs Southern Africa director with a special responsibility for the ”independent homelands”. 
Even appointments seemingly less security oriented, may be less innocent than they seem. Though listed as dean of the faculty of engineering at Stellenbosch University, Professor HC Viljoen, apart from being reportedly an influential member of the Broederbond, is known to have close links with the military establishment. 

Since De Klerk’s ascent to power the Broederbond, whose power had been diminished in the wake of scandals in the late 1970s, has become increasingly influential again as a policy-making body. 
De Klerk is a prominent member of the organisation and has been in the secret society from the age of 28. His brother, former Transvaler editor Wimpie de Klerk, is one of its leading figures as is FW’s chief political advisor, Constitutional Affairs Minister Gerrit Viljoen. Hans Strydom, co-author of The Super-Afrikaners, the book which blew the lid on the Broederbond, noted that the entire negotiating tear which met the ANC earlier this month was made up Broederbond member! 

”Since FW became president the Broederbond has been getting stronger. It’s not surprising that they should, be especially strong in broadcasting. Propaganda has always been acknowledged as a special domain by the Broeders,” Strydom said. The task group was appointed by Louw, who is also a Brooder, on March 23 to investigate the broadcasting industry in South and southern Africa, to ”cover among other matters future broadcasting requirements, international trends in broadcasting, new technologies e.g. satellite transmissions, privatisation and deregulation, guidelines for the orderly development of the broadcasting industry, and resources influencing broadcasting services such as availability of frequencies, advertising income, manpower, etc”.  

Commenting this week in parliament on the task group, Democratic Party broadcasting spokesman Peter Soal described its position as ”unfortunate in that it is comprised mainly of securocrats and bureaucrats. ”Admittedly there is a representative from M-Net but all members are male -there are no blacks, ‘coloureds ‘ a Indians, there is no representative from parliament, none from the advertising industry, no one to represent the viewers and listeners or the market research organisations. There is no representative from the independent radio stations, nor from the press, nor from the education field”.  

Soal also regretted that SABC board chairman Professor Christo Viljoen has been appointed as chairman of the task group. As chairman of the SABC – which “is to all intents and purposes, the monopoly holder of broadcasting” – Soal said “he might have some difficulty when it comes to the disposal of some of the SABC empire”. The film and Allied Workers Organisation (Fawo), which represents progressive filmmakers, has called for an immediate halt to the activities of the task force.
This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.

This article originally appeared in the Weekly Mail.


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