Issue Number: 4036
Diary: Legalbrief Today
The SABC, which continues to resist an order from the broadcasting regulator to reverse its ban on showing footage of violent service delivery protests (see report below), has fired three more journalists – Busisiwe Ntuli, a specialist producer for the investigative programme Special Assignment, Lukhanyo Calata, a SABC journalist in Cape Town, and economics editor Thandeka Gqubule, notesLegalbrief.
According to a News24 report, this brings to seven the number of journalists sacked by the public broadcaster since Monday when Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Krivani Pillay and Jacques Steenkamp were informed of their axing. Freelance journalist Vuyo Mvoko’s contract with the corporation was terminated earlier this month. Their lawyer reportedly told News24 that they would fight their dismissals at the highest court.
The journalists form part of the so-called SABC 8 who have been targeted by the public broadcaster for speaking out against censorship. The issue has brought the resignation of another senior journalist. Ivor Price‚ TV news anchor on SABC2 and presenter and producer with Afrikaans radio station RSG‚ announced his resignation on Twitter.
A BDlivereport notes he handed in his resignation on 30 June‚ the day when journalists protested outside the SABC’s offices in Johannesburg and Cape Town – having already accepted another job offer. ‘(SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi) Motsoeneng’s venomous tentacles have the entire public broadcaster in their grip‚’ he said. ‘Even if he resigns tomorrow or is fired‚ it will be a long time before good journalists will get over the incapacitating fear.’ When he saw the news of his colleagues being dismissed this week‚ he ‘could no longer remain silent’. The issue of the sacking of the journalists is expected to come before the Labour Court tomorrow.
The SABC and Icasa are on a collision course over the decision to ban footage of violent protests and the regulator’s order that the broadcaster withdraw it, says aBusiness Day report. It notes the SABC refuses to withdraw the decision, claiming the regulator’s order is merely a recommendation. The deadline for the SABC to inform Icasa that it had complied was yesterday, but it was not clear whether the SABC had adhered to it. The SABC has been delaying the matter, claiming it was never formally informed of Icasa’s ruling and whether the recommendation by the complaints and compliance committee had been endorsed by the council, as required by law. This, notes the report, prompted Icasa acting chair Rubben Mohlaloga to write to the broadcaster, insisting that it ‘desist from any further contravention’. In the letter, which Business Day says it has seen, Mohlaloga told the SABC that the Icasa council had unanimously endorsed the decision that it withdraw its editorial policy.He wrote that Icasa wanted to reiterate its position and its direction to the SABC ‘for the avoidance of doubt’. The report notes the SABC has indicated that it would take the Icasa ruling to court for review, but would need to interdict the order first.
Parliamentary authorities appear to be ignoring calls to deal with the matter. The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) is the latest organisation to have written to the Speaker of the National Assembly requesting that an urgent meeting of the Communications Committee be convened to deal with the crisis. However, according to a statement by Casac recorded in a report on the IoL site, the Speaker has not responded to the letter. Casac says: ‘Parliament is once again failing to exercise its constitutional responsibilities to hold the executive and the SABC board to account. The rebuke the National Assembly recently received from the Constitutional Court ruling in the Nkandla matter appears to have fallen on deaf ears.’
Motsoeneng has a history of sacking people without following proper procedure. ANews24 report notes that Public Protector Thuli Madonsela’s 2014 report titledWhen Governance and Ethics Fail found that Motsoeneng’s irregular termination of the employment of senior employees had cost the broadcaster millions due to its ‘procedural and substantive injustices’. Most of the cases were handled without following proper procedure. All 14 suspensions and terminations were successfully challenged in court and at the CCMA. ‘The substantial amounts of money paid to SABC’s employees as settlements during protracted suspensions, terminations and/or long drawn-out labour dispute proceedings and protracted litigations caused unnecessary and avoidable costs to the national broadcaster, thus resulting in fruitless and wasteful expenditure,’ Madonsela found. The avoidable legal fees and settlement awards contributed to an unprecedented R29m salary bill escalation.