In his tenure as chief operations officer of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng has grabbed more headlines than any of the content the public broadcaster has run.
Motsoeneng’s latest policy – that the SABC will not air violent protests – has been met with outrage. But the latest decree isn’t the only policy that has had South Africans side-eyeing the SABC – take a look:
1. There will be no violent protests … on SABC
South Africa has been dubbed the protest country of the world. In the wake of the burning of schools in Vuwani, Limpopo, and lecture theatres at various universities, Motsoeneng announced that the SABC would no longer show images of violent protests. It would encourage more people to set things on fire, he reasoned.
The SABC would continue to cover protests but it would stop short of showing images of destruction.
“It is regrettable that these actions are disrupting many lives and, as a responsible public institution, we will not assist these individuals to push their agenda that seeks media attention,” Motsoeneng stated.
“As a public service broadcaster we have a mandate to educate the citizens, and we therefore have taken this bold decision to show that violent protests are not necessary.”
But South Africans audiences are calling out the broadcaster for dismissing their right to be informed.
2. Censorship? What censorship?
Despite the Independent Communication Authority of South Africa (Icasa) ordering that the SABC must reverse its decision not to show footage of violent protest action, Motsoeneng was defiant.
“No on is going to tell us what to do,” he said.
- READ MORE: Icasa orders the SABC to stop its ban on violent protests – or risk losing its broadcasting licence
He announced that the SABC would stand by its decision, and rejected allegations of censorship.
“We as the SABC, we are not apologetic on the issues that we believe on [sic],” he announced in a press conference on July 11.
He went on: “[It’s] ‘hullabaloo’ when people talk about censorship [here].”
“I don’t know what it is we are [supposedly] censoring? Myself and [SABC spokesperson] Kaizer [Kganyago] explained several times, to say: certain visuals, we are not going to show them.”
“If you talk about censorship, I think all newsrooms, they censor stories every day,” Motsoeneng said. “Because you have so many stories daily, when you have your diary, you choose what you want.… But when it comes to the SABC, [why is] it censorship?” he asked.
3. Tow the line – or else
Motsoeneng also vowed to ‘deal with’ disloyal SABC employees through an initiative called Operation Clean Up.
“We have realised that there are forces outside. They want to destabilise the organisation and also use internal people within the organisation and we are going to deal with them, especially with the people within the organisation,” he told reporters on July 11.
“We are not going to let anyone dictate to this organisation. We are here to lead. The reason why we are here is to lead and we are leading.”
4. Pay your journalism license
Motsoeneng raised eyebrows during a meeting at Parliament when he said that the media needs to be regulated.
“Even Parliament is regulated. The judges are regulated. What is a sin if media are regulated? I think it’s very important that all people should be regulated because what we are trying to say here, we need people to be professional when they do their work,” Motsoeneng told MPs.
Motsoeneng was addressing Gavin Davis, the Democratic Alliance’s communications spokesperson at the time.
Davis said in a later statement: “This is the kind of nonsense that has made Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the SABC a laughing stock across South Africa. If anybody needs to be ‘regulated’, it is Hlaudi Motsoeneng himself.”
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an international press freedom organisation, reacted to Motsoeneng’s comments too, saying: “South Africa must not become a country to which repressive governments can point in their efforts to legitimise press freedom violations.”
Thankfully, Motsoeneng’s mission to licence journalists hasn’t panned out.
5. A good story to tell
Motsoeneng had a good story to tell. Well, at least a 70% good story.
“For me, it is actually disappointing to see what news coverage there is out there, because there are so many positive issues happening in this country,” Motsoeneng told the Mail & Guardian.
“The media normally focus on the negative publicity. I believe, from the SABC’s side, 70% should be positive [news] stories and then you can have 30% negative stories. The reason I am championing this is because if you only talk about the negative, people can’t even try to think on their feet. Because what occupies their mind is all this negative stuff.”
Needless to say, public reaction wasn’t all that positive.
6. Hold the social media
The SABC’s policy that its journalists should not make political comments or post images of themselves in party regalia on social media has, ironically, gained traction on social media.
The social media policy went viral in the midst of the broadcaster’s commitment to not show violent protests.
The SABC said the policy had always been there. “Put a (comment) in the social space that brings the organisation into disrepute‚ we’ll deal with it‚“ said SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago.
As many social media users pointed out, what is the point of being a journalist in the current political climate if you can’t tweet a meme about Mbuyiseni Ndlozi’s baeness or post just one heheheh?
7. What Marikana documentary?
Miners Shot Down is perhaps one of the most important documentaries to come out of South Africa. The film looks at 2012’s Marikana massacre, charting the week preceding the gunning down of 34 miners. The SABC hasn’t shown it on air.
Kganyago said the SABC had been in contact with documentary maker Rehad Desai to explain why it could not be aired at the time it was submitted.
“We then responded to them to say, at the time it would not be prudent to do it because the Marikana commission [Farlam Commission of Inquiry] was still on. Secondly, there were no slots available at the time.”
It seems the documentary wasn’t high enough on the SABC’s priority list, despite – or perhaps because of – its revealing nature.
8. “I don’t believe in scientific research”
Motsoeneng uttered these words during an interview on Jacaranda FM on June 6, inducing some eye-rolls.
Defending his stance that the SABC should not air violent protests, Motsoeneng told radio host, Rian van Heerden, that he doesn’t need scientific research to back up his views or policies.
“I interact with the audience and it is clear that people do not want to see more violence as it leads to more violence,” he said.
9. Let there be uniforms
Amid rumours that Motsoeneng would ban SABC channels from airing any views that are critical of the SABC or COO himself, the SABC’s man of the moment came out to deny the rumours and, in doing so, made a few WTF statements.
“I have been thinking maybe our employees should have uniforms so that they can understand unity,” Motsoeneng said on June 8.
Motsoeneng was talking about the need to develop SABC employees to “sing the song and talk the talk of the SABC”, instead of having employees who may talk to journalists about what’s happening inside the organisation.
10. “I believe in myself. I believe everywhere I am, I do miracles.
After the announcement by acting group chief executive James Aguma that Motsoeneng would be re-appointed to his post as the SABC’s group executive for corporate affairs, Motsoeneng, once again, wasted no time in affirming his self-belief.
“I believe in myself. I believe everywhere I am, I do miracles. There is only one Hlaudi in South Africa and my future is in my hands,” Motsoeneng said on September 27.
Motsoeneng was removed as COO of the SABC a week before he made the utterance after a report by public protector Thuli Madonsela found he had lied about a matric qualification.