Award-winning reporter Asanda Magaqa has been “escorted” off the premises and presumably fired at ANN7, the 24-hour news channel launched by the politically-connected Gupta family.
Magaqa tweeted the news on Monday afternoon.
Being escorted off the work premises by security… Who ever anticipates that? I can only pray I’ll receive my salary on Wed…?
— Asanda Magaqa (@asandamagaqa) November 24, 2014
Her removal from the channel follows the news that Chantal Rutter-Dros, the most senior journalist at the station, had resigned and would be leaving on December 3, leaving the station without a prime time news anchor. Assignments editor Clinton Nagoor has reportedly also resigned.
The Mail & Guardian understands Magaqa has been subjected to a disciplinary process for insubordination, among other charges. There appears to be a drive at the station to clamp down on dissent and to cut staff costs.
The Sunday World alleged that Magaqa attacked an HR manager at the disciplinary hearing, broke a cellphone, and suffered a physical collapse. Magaqa confirmed to the newspaper that she had collapsed during the hearing, but took to Twitter on Monday night to deny reports that she had attacked anyone.
ANN7 launched in August 2013 with a rocky debut, as inexperienced presenters and technical staff made several mistakes on air.
The addition of experienced broadcast journalists like Magaqa, Rutter-Dros and Hajra Omarjee was aimed at adding credibility to the channel.
Omarjee represented Magaqa at the disciplinary hearing, and seemed to take the news badly, saying she was feeling ill, shortly after retweeting the news of Magaqa’s forced departure.
I feel nauseous, I have a throbbing headache … I’m going home.
— Hajra Omarjee (@HajraOmarjee) November 24, 2014
Poor working conditions
The high-profile departures follow reports of poor working conditions at the channel.
The Communication Workers Union has submitted a detailed list of “unfair labour practices and worker ill-treatment” to channel bosses, which the M&G has seen. Complaints include forced overtime with no extra pay, poor wages, a shortage of cars – and harsh consequences for those who are unable to report due to the shortage – and no sick bay or first aid services.
Magaqa was recognised as one of the M&G‘s top 200 young South Africans in 2012.
A cross-language reporter with a focus on English and Nguni languages, Magaqa has won many awards for her reporting, including two Vodacom Journalist Awards, and has worked for Special Assignment as a specialist journalist.
Magaqa has worked as a field reporter, presenter and television anchor for the SABC, where she was a radio anchor and reporter, and, at age 23, was the youngest person to host a current affairs flagship show, which attracted 4.6-million listeners.
ANN7 GM Quraysh Patel would not provide reasons for Magaqa’s dismissal, saying it was not company policy to discuss employee disciplinary matters with the media.
“If the employee is of the view that the company has acted unfairly in effecting the dismissal, the employee has the right to seek recourse in terms of the dispute-settling mechanism provisions as provided for in the Labour Relations Act,” he said.
Magaqa was not immediately available for comment. – Mail & Guardian