SABC news chief’s special leave a ‘policy matter’

SABC head of news Phil Molefe’s special leave is a human resources “policy matter” and has nothing to do with his alleged political allegiances, the broadcaster said on Monday.

“Mr Molefe was placed on special leave due to issues that pertain to HR [human resources] policy matters and it is therefore strictly an operational matter,” South African Broadcasting Corporation spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said in a statement.

“It has nothing to do with interfering with editorial independence of the news division.

“The editorial team is led by a professional team of executives … and to suggest that they are acting in place of Mr Molefe for political reasons would be to undermine the professional standing of [SABC television news head] Jimi Matthews and his entire staff.”

Kganyago said the SABC board held a meeting on Monday to discuss Molefe’s leave.

“The board expressed the view that the group chief executive officer [Luluma Mokhobo] was within her rights to place an executive on special leave in terms of the Sabc’s employment policies,” he said.

“The board has mandated … Mokhobo to speedily deal with the HR related matters that pertain to Mr Molefe and if possible find an amicable solution.”

Special leave
On Tuesday, Kganyago confirmed that Molefe had been placed on special leave pending the outcome of a meeting.

He said at the time he would not comment on the reasons behind the move, which drew widespread reaction from various groups.

On Wednesday, the Star newspaper reported that the ANC Youth League had questioned the SABC’s decision, claiming it was because Molefe had given embattled youth league president Julius Malema too much airtime.

“It is becoming clearer now that Makhobo was appointed to pursue factional agendas in the SABC, and not fulfil the public broadcasting mandate of the SABC,” the league told the newspaper.

On Thursday, Molefe denied that he had been placed on leave because of political allegiances.

“I wish to place it on record that I do not back any political side or party across the political spectrum,” he said in a statement.

“As a professional, my role is to ensure that all sides of a story are reflected in news output.” — Sapa

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