'Serious state of decay' in SABC newsroom, says head of news Phathiswa Magopeni

03 September 2019 - 15:15 By Amil Umraw
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
SABC in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers/Sunday Times.

There was a "serious state of decay" in the SABC's newsroom under its former management.

This is according to SABC head of news Phathiswa Magopeni, who told the state capture inquiry on Tuesday that she found a newsroom that was on "auto-pilot" when she was appointed to the position in March 2018.

"Getting into that environment I found decay, a serious state of decay. It was subdued, but you could sense that the kind of equilibrium companies would be hoping for is not the kind of equilibrium I found there," she said.

"There was something bubbling underneath. The newsroom was on auto-pilot."

She said managers in the newsroom had no credibility among journalists.

"The nature of the leadership that existed did not assist them or to do what it needed to do. You had people who were supposed to lead the newsroom [who] were not trusted by journalists. They had no legitimacy or did not command any authority to be trusted by journalists in the newsroom," Magopeni said.

This seriously affected news coverage, she said. "As a result, what you would see there were serious problems in terms of decision-making, because journalists were used to being given instructions and they would have to wait to be told what to do.

"The people who were there, who were supposed to hold people to account, were either not fully knowledgeable of what was supposed to be done, or when the issues were raised, they did nothing about it."

Magopeni's testimony is continuing.