Thu Dec 08 16:23:09 SAST 2016

SABC must be seen to be independent of all politicians

The Editor, The Times Newspaper | 2012-04-12 00:34:33.0
SABC headquarters Auckland Park. File photo.
Image by: Tyrone Arthur © Business Day

The Times Editorial: What is left to say about the shambles at Auckland Park?

The latest disclosure - that SABC news and current affairs chief Phil Molefe has been placed on "special leave", for reasons that have yet to be explained - is merely the latest in a series of disasters that have befallen the public broadcaster.

In the 18 years since South Africa became a democracy, CEOs and news heads of varying calibres and independence of thought have been signed on and booted out with monotonous regularity.

Boards have been purged, replaced and replaced again as the cash-strapped corporation lurched from one crisis to another, interspersed with regular requests to the Treasury to bail it out to the tune of hundreds of millions of rands.

And yet taxpayers' money is spent like there is no tomorrow as a grandiose plan to establish a news network to rival CNN is hatched, then scrapped, and Mercedes-Benzes are leased to transport news crews to assignments.

What to make of Molefe's departure?

The SABC has angrily denounced published claims that he has been disciplined because he defied the orders of his senior executives to stop giving too much air time to Jacob Zuma's arch-rival, suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema.

Indeed, Molefe might have been punished for reasons that are entirely banal, but the SABC is not telling, saying they are confidential.

Whatever the truth, it is undeniable that the ANC government, like the Nationalists before it, has proved unable to resist the temptation to interfere with the SABC.

In recent years, the factional politics of the ruling party have buffeted the public broadcaster and its various boards, as powerful supporters of Thabo Mbeki, and then Jacob Zuma, found favour or were cast out.

The dead hand of politics will continue to emasculate the SABC until our leaders find the courage to set up mechanisms to ensure that it is genuinely independent.

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