The public broadcaster believes President Cyril Ramaphosa was sabotaged during a recorded address to the nation last week.
On Thursday, the president recorded a statement that was aired on all local 24-hour television channels.
But the address that aired on the South African Broadcast Corporation (SABC) was riddled with errors, including the president having to restart his address.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the broadcaster’s Vuyo Mthembu said: “The SABC’s preliminary investigation into the incident has revealed that material for the 18h00 broadcast of the President’s pre-recorded address was prepared in good time to ensure a clean transmission.”
“However, unauthorised changes were effected without any communication to the desk. Consequently, the programme published and played the rehearsal clip from President Ramaphosa’s recorded address to the nation, instead of the final version.”
The Mail & Guardian understands that Ramaphosa recorded the address at the SABC’s parliamentary studios, with the entire feed being sent to the SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters.
“Those involved in production activities were all warned in advance that they should disregard the rehearsal clip. The SABC now has strong prima facie evidence indicating that the broadcast of the incorrect clip was a well-considered and coordinated act of sabotage to bring the SABC and consequently the president into disrepute,” Mthembu said.
The SABC confirmed on Tuesday that three employees had been suspended pending a disciplinary hearing. A freelancer had also not been scheduled to work, pending a disciplinary hearing.
Commenting on the allegation of sabotaging the president, Phathiswa Magopeni, the SABC’s head of news and current affairs, said the incident happened at a time when the broadcaster was trying to restore its image as a credible public news service. “Any employee found to be involved in clandestine activities aimed at undoing the ongoing work to restore the credibility of the public news service will be dealt with accordingly within the confines of the SABC’s human resources and disciplinary policies,” she said.
“We are committed to doing everything possible to improve the quality of our work and elevate the standard of our performance. What happened on Thursday has no place at all in the public news service,” Magopeni added.
The incident comes at the same time that operations at the SABC are currently under the spotlight at the Zondo commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture.
On Tuesday, former SABC chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng began giving testimony to the commission chaired by Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo.