The commission of inquiry’s report on editorial interference found that the SABC was a hostile work environment and that news coverage was influenced by former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng, former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and former board chair, Ellen Tshabalala.
In 2016 Muthambi told the Parliament’s SABC inquiry that she never interfered with the SABC’s coverage as a communications minister.
The report, which was written by veteran journalist Joe Thloloe and law firm director Stephen Tawana, found that there were “Cabinet Ministers, SABC Board members and senior executives, as well as mid-level executives who ‘enforced’ the instructions from the top”.
Phumzile van Damme told reporters outside a Cape Town police station on Thursday that Muthambi’s dishonesty in Parliament is “a clear violation of a law” which is why she laid a complaint on 8 August 2019.
“The nature of the complaint is misleading Parliament, so in terms of the powers, privilege and immunities of MPs and provincial legislature it states that giving testimony to a committee in Parliament or ad-hoc committee in Parliament, you must be truthful and if you mislead it, it’s a criminal offence which if taken to court, you’d receive a fine or two years imprisonment,” said van Damme.
The commission heard oral evidence in 58 hearings. One of the people they heard from was Busani Mthembu, who was the KZN provincial editor.
Mthembu told the commission that in the run-up to the 2014 elections Muthambi “insisted that all her constituency visits to Willowfontein outside Pietermaritzburg be covered”, which led to more interesting stories being dropped.
The commission also found that Muthambi threatened to fire staff.
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, who was the economics editor, described the working environment as an “egregious abuse of power”.
“We will pursue this relentlessly. We need to send a clear message to ANC politicians that South Africa will no longer be satisfied with politicians who mislead Parliament,” said Van Damme outside the police station.
Muthambi currently chairs the portfolio committee of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and did not immediately respond to calls and messages for comment on Thursday morning. DM
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