Editorial: Political meddling won’t save the SABC

The SABC has an ignominious history of political interference primarily intended to placate the censorship whims of the governing ANC. For years, in moves that harked back to the repressive regime of the Nats, the public broadcaster has been used by the party as its political football in internal factional battles, or to censor dissent.  

This isn’t new. In 2006 the Unauthorised: Thabo Mbeki documentary was pulled just before it had been advertised to broadcast. 

In the run-up to the 2016 local government elections, then SABC head honcho Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the self-proclaimed “organic intellectual” himself, issued a decree that no visuals of violent protests would be shown by the broadcaster. At the time, dozens of schools were being set on fire in Vuwani, Limpopo.

Censorship like this shows the danger of a captured public broadcaster. 

Bad leadership also leads to gross mismanagement. The SABC of today survives because of bailouts. Now it is trying to cut about 400 jobs, a move its management says is crucial to its survival. Many of these are workers who have kept the broadcaster going, despite the attempts to subvert its purpose. 


Notwithstanding those who were appointed without skills and should not have been given the jobs they do, it is easy to see the importance of supporting SABC workers. 

But then, on Wednesday, two reporters “interviewed” ANC secretary general Ace Magashule and used the moment to push for the party to intervene in the broadcaster’s affairs. 

This is not journalism. And it is asking for the sort of interference, from someone who has been charged with corruption, that has destroyed the SABC. It is a betrayal of that crucial institution. 

In parliament, the portfolio committee on communications followed this with another shameful display. Running to midnight, their meeting was a disaster. Nothing was achieved.    

This was a meeting that was meant to provide some guidance and workable solutions for the next steps for the broadcaster. 

But instead of looking at some of these possibilities as a way of saving jobs, the meeting became a sideshow that focused on the politics of the board and people’s egos. A clearly divided board aired its differences. 

Few seemed to care about the workers of the SABC — or about the future of one of the most important public institutions in South Africa. Our politics of division, derision and one-upmanship continue, just like they do in so many of our state owned enterprises.

Our future is bleak if this is how we are led. 

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

Advertising

Subscribers only

How lottery execs received dubious payments through a private company

The National Lottery Commission is being investigated by the SIU for alleged corruption and maladministration, including suspicious payments made to senior NLC employees between 2016 and 2017

Pandemic hobbles learners’ futures

South African schools have yet to open for the 2021 academic year and experts are sounding the alarm over lost learning time, especially in the crucial grades one and 12

More top stories

What the Biden presidency may mean for Africa

The new US administration has an interest and much expertise in Africa. But given the scale of the priorities the administration faces, Africa must not expect to feature too prominently

Zuma, Zondo play the waiting game

The former president says he will talk once the courts have ruled, but the head of the state capture inquiry appears resigned to letting the clock run out as the commission's deadline nears

Disinformation harms health and democracy

Conspiracy theorists abuse emotive topics to suck the air out of legitimate debate and further their own sinister agendas

Uganda: ‘I have never seen this much tear-gas in an...

Counting was slow across Uganda as a result of the internet shutdown, which affected some of the biometric machines used to validate voter registrations.
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…