Business Maverick

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SABC goes after Special Assignment – hard

SABC goes after Special Assignment – hard

The SABC uses jackboot tactics against its own in a hunt for Zapiroistas in its midst.

Internal auditors at the SABC are sequestering disk drives and demanding that staff of the Special Assignment investigative show undergo lie detector tests. Was somebody murdered? Perhaps there was a daring office robbery? No. The whole rumpus is about that programme on Jonathan Shapiro (who cartoons as Zapiro) that the channel didn’t want to broadcast.

To us the biggest irony is that the show in question was mostly about Jacob Zuma, a man who knows a thing or two about raids and document seizures. Wonder what he thinks of this one.

It reads like a badly written thriller, despite the tragic Shakespearean overtones. And it reminds viewers of the saga over the documentary “Unauthorised: Thabo Mbeki” way back when, because although the lead roles have changed, the bit part characters remain.

Business Day reports that SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago confirmed that a probe had been launched into missing programme footage. Presumably the same footage that ended up in the hands of the Mail & Guardian, which published the video online. “At the end of the day, no organisation is going to let a breach of any form go unpunished,” Kganyago said. “We cannot just let this go. We want action to be taken to ensure that it never happens again.”

This is rich, considering the lack of action against other SABC names: Dali, Snuki, Matilda, Mafika, Gab, Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande, Mvuzo Mbebe and Robin Nicholson, for instance.

The brutal ironies of the SABC investigating its own investigating unit in a hunt a programme on political satire go even further. Special Assignment story editor Khadija Bradlow resigned after being informed that she would have to undergo a lie-detector test and staff received e-mails from the internal audit department questioning their loyalty to the SABC.

The SABC also allegedly suggested that Special Assignment staff had links to other organisations, which no doubt was the reason for the disappearance of the tapes in the first place. Zuma’s lawyer Michael Hulley, and the evergreen Ranjeni Munusamy, as the pre-eminent experts on such matters, should be able to shed some light on this sort of thing.

The Mail & Guardian reports that the SABC has a deficit of almost R800-million. It can only be hoped that the new SABC board will make a really clean sweep this time of the Gestapo within, who seek to influence that most sacrosanct of public of entities away from its core mandate to promote truth and justice and democracy, and end the sordid entertainment that makes up so much of its life outside of its programming.


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