Row over deathwatch
While the world is still caught up in the euphoria of celebrating Nelson Mandela's birthday, tension about who will be reporting on the statesman's death has turned the SABC's Eastern Cape offices into a war zone.
Four sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, alleged that morale was at an all-time low at the corporation's offices in Port Elizabeth, Mthatha and Bhisho.
The sources said that some employees were no longer speaking to each other and were at loggerheads with the regional management about changes made to the team of journalists and producers who would cover Mandela's death.
Meetings have been held between staff and regional managers about the journalists' concerns, and with national managers at the headquarters of the SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
The provincial ANC leadership has reportedly entered the fray.
The insiders alleged that, after a list of reporters and an outline of their tasks in covering Mandela's death was compiled by the provincial bureaus and approved by the national office, Eastern Cape SABC Radio and TV news regional editor Diedre Uren altered the list.
They claimed that Uren has replaced some senior reporters with junior, inexperienced staff.
The staff members said they had been forced into signing a secrecy clause, which prohibits them from revealing anything about the corporation's preparations for Mandela's death, failing which they face instant dismissal.
"Tensions are boiling in the Eastern Cape SABC over the team to cover events around Mandela, with senior and experienced journalists being sidelined for junior and inexperienced reporters, mostly from the Port Elizabeth offices," one source said.
Contacted yesterday, Uren denied the allegations. She said there was no list and that the team that would cover the events related to Mandela's death consisted of senior journalists.
"There is no list and there are no people that were removed. Your sources are uninformed.
"The team covering Mandela consists of senior and experienced journalists.
"Other than that I cannot comment because it is against SABC policy for me to speak to the press," Uren said before referring all queries to Eastern Cape SABC manager Zola Yeye, who could not be reached.
ANC spokesman and local government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane, through his spokesman, Mvusi Sicwetsha, yesterday confirmed that some SABC staff had approached the party.
He said a meeting, prompted by concerns about the public broadcaster's coverage of Eastern Cape, was held with SABC senior personnel in Johannesburg. The issue of junior reporters being assigned to cover stories was also discussed.