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SABC staffer committed suicide after fake document firings

Former SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng announces the formation of his new political party African Content Movement on December 13, 2018 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Motsoeneng, whose appointment at SABC COO was declared invalid, says his party will run for the 2019 national elections and that he wants to challenge President Cyril Ramaphosa for the country’s top job. (Photo: Gallo Images / Sowetan / Thulani Mbele)

The SABC fake document scandal has now exposed the tragic suicide of a handyman at the public broadcaster.

Sam Thobakgale hanged himself in 2017 after the SABC fired him using fake documents.

Thobakgale’s uncle says his nephew was the pillar of his family.

After he got fired, he struggled to support his wife and three children.”

Thobakgale, who died aged 40, worked at the SABC for nearly 15 years as a handyman. He loved his job, his uncle told us. It was his only source of income and he never expected to be fired.

Thobakgale’s former colleagues at the SABC were full of praise for the man. They remember him as a jolly person full of jokes and laughter.

Sam’s unemployed widow now lives in an informal settlement.

Sam didn’t have parents and his family was entirely dependent on him for support”, his uncle says.

Thobakgale was one of 123 staff fired by the SABC after the public broadcaster received independent legal opinions – which did not recommend firing – and redrafted them. The SABC’s new judgments were made to look as if they were from Tokiso, the independent commercial and employment dispute resolution experts which the broadcaster had hired.

The SABC bosses could not have known the damage to lives that would follow.

Many of those fired have seen their families broken and their belongings and properties lost. Some are appealing to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA), but in the meantime suffer the pain. The fake documents emerged recently during the CCMA process, which is when Scrolla.Africa reported on them.

There are many others:

  • Vusi Mabuza, from the SABC IT department, says his wife left him because he couldn’t provide for her and he now sells metal to scrapyards. “The only reason I stop myself from committing suicide is because my sons (ages seven and nine) are still young.”

  • Mabuza says another colleague died from depression.

  • Jonas Mapheto from Meadowlands in Soweto was a supervisor at the TV licensing department. “I am on the brink of losing my wife as there is no love since I can’t look after her.”

  • Thomas Muthego from Vuwani in Limpopo says his wife died in 2017 after he was fired. “After I got fired, she couldn’t access the [health] services and her health deteriorated.” Muthego now sells water to local residents. “Since water is scarce in the area, I use my bakkie to fetch and sell water.”

Tuwani Gumani of the Media Workers Association of South Africa says “fraud cases must be opened against these executives and their subordinates”.

In its email response to the initial story, the SABC said it could not comment on the story as the case of the fired staff members is with the CCMA.

Former Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng told us that he had been advised to overrule the Tokiso opinions, and that the documents he signed had come from the HR department and the SABC’s lawyers.

They had double-checked on the legalities of the documents and they were satisfied,” Motsoeneng said. DM

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