SABC chief executive was a 'lame duck' under the 'alpha and omega' Hlaudi Motsoeneng

05 September 2019 - 17:09 By AMIL UMRAW
Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. File photo.
Former SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. File photo.

SABC economics editor Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki told the state capture inquiry on Thursday that Hlaudi Motsoeneng was the "alpha and omega" of the public broadcaster as head of operations, rendering the chief executive officer a "lame duck".

She testified that Motsoeneng's policies, back in 2014 when he was in the position, bent the mandate of the SABC and constrained journalists from practising their vocation. She made specific reference to a policy that banned the SABC from broadcasting violent protests.

"It is heinous to hide from citizens what they need to know about how they are governed; to be asked to mute the public voice in a democracy was for me a treasonous request," she said.

"Our journalists were being constrained from practising their vocation as they have been taught. The fact that in a cavalier way we were being asked to bend the very mandate of public broadcasting."

She described Hlaudi as the "alpha and omega" who rendered the chief executive above him a "lame duck".

She, along with SABC managers Suna Venter and Jakob "Foeta" Krige, were suspended with immediate effect for speaking out about the protest policy.

"I went to the Freedom of Expression Institute (FXI) to organise a revolt, to bring it on because we felt that we owed it to the country to be heard on this issue. We organised a meeting with civil society in Melville and we decided to march to the Constitutional Court and that Krige, myself and Venter would lead the march," she said.

Not long after the march, the trio was axed from the SABC.

Gqubule-Mbeki also described instances of political interference in stories at the public broadcaster.

One incident occurred after then president Jacob Zuma axed Nhlanhla Nene as finance minister in December 2015.

"It was our responsibility to tell the South African public about the value of the money in their pocket, the plunge of the rand ... and everything that happened in the slump of the economy," she said.

She alleged SABC head of TV news Nothando Maseko asked her "to veer away from mentioning the conduct of the president and the political factors moving the rand on those days [when Nene was fired]".

"To be asked not to tell the public about what’s driving the value of the rand in their pocket for me is another treasonous request. I basically decided not to tell the members of my team and proceed as normal," she said.