SABC uncaptured? The evidence simply doesn’t add up – Ed Herbst

CAPE TOWN — OK, so there’s a strengthening discourse that many State-owned enterprises are being uncaptured – certainly parliament’s oversight committees have never been more forcible. And that’s across party lines. But while those MP’s can call senior staffers to account, they don’t patrol the passages of the SABC, where, as former veteran staffer Ed Herbst highlights, the ANC propaganda machinations by party apparatchiks continues, virtually unabated. Perhaps this solid documentation about the behaviour of a host of senior staff still holding influential positions should come before the relevant parliamentary committee. As Herbst lays it out, they have a history of blatant interference in omitting ANC-critical stories or bulldozing in ANC propaganda that has little or no real news value. This is always unavoidably at the expense of more important news with direct relevance or value to viewers and listeners. More to the point, the blindly devoted ANC-obedient senior staffers remain in total defiance of the SABC’s own editorial policy. The broom it seems has yet to sweep clean. – Chris Bateman

More of Jeremy’s brilliant work available at jerm.co.za.

By Ed Herbst*

‘… there have been times where I have told you to put bullshit on air and I am not going to beat about the bush about that, there are times when I need to give you instructions to put shit on air.

‘…at the end of the day the reality of our situation is that we are sometimes forced to put shit on air.’ – Nyana Molete (Line Manager: TV News) during an Auckland Park meeting on 3 September 2015 ordering SABC news editors to broadcast ANC propaganda

‘An order has been issued to all news desks, to run with a story that comes from the board, about the appointment of the top three. This is a story that happened yesterday. So it’s old news. Right now, I am looking at our line-up and there is a note for all desks to use the story. Hlaudi used to do that, interfere with news. And it’s happening again.’ – BEMAWU 8/11/2017

Once a state broadcaster, always a state broadcaster, it seems.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation until a few weeks ago, deified Grace Mugabe.

Now it broadcasts criticism of her by the new political elite in Zimbabwe.

For much the same reasons – a complete dearth of principle and professional pride – the SABC remains, like ZBC, a state broadcaster as the anchor quotes indicate.

Veteran journalist Ed Herbst

The maniacal ‘Intellectual Lecher’, eyes bloodshot from staring too long at his wardrobe of phosphorescent purple suits and ties and Jimi (The Door or the Window) Matthews have gone and only memories of Suna Venter and her persecution linger in the memory .

As I pointed out in a previous article, The SABC – bankrupt but rich in enforcers, Motsoeneng’s disciples remain at the state broadcaster and their subordinates continue to work in an atmosphere of fear and are forced to parrot the ANC line.

In a written submission to the SABC parliamentary inquiry earlier this year, Suna Venter named and shamed these enforcers:

These are the people who form part of the network Mr Hlaudi Motsoeneng created around him to execute his decisions and agenda – specifically as it pertains to the newsroom.  

Mr Anton Heunis – ‘Commercial Adviser’

Mr Simon Tebele – GCEO: News and Current Affairs

Ms Sebulelo Dithlakanyane (Head of Radio News and Current Affairs)

Ms Sophie Mokoena (acting political and foreign editor)

Mr Nyana Molete (Line Manager: TV News)

Ms Nothando Maseko (Head of TV News)

These are the main enforcers of Mr Motsoeneng’s wishes in news management. They continue with their ways even in his absence and although I personally have no supporting evidence, Mr Motsoeneng is believed broadly to still be calling the shots on many levels at the SABC despite his removal.

Molete, it will be recalled, played a major role in the state broadcaster unconstitutionally denying millions of South Africans the news that President Jacob Zuma had been booed in front of a phalanx of world political leaders during the Nelson Mandela memorial service in December 2013. As an encore, he dismissed the SABC 8.

He’s still there and being protected by the ANC as one of the leading promoters of its propaganda.

That’s all folks, or is it? Zapiro on Hlaudi Motsoeneng. More magic available at www.zapiro.com.

So too is the head of TV News Nothando Maseko. Vuyo Mvoko, now a news anchor at eNCA has gone on record about how they have become willing minions and messengers in the ANC’s version of ‘His Master’s Voice’.

Friends at the SABC tell me that their experience of Maseko is that she is as useless as she is arrogant and domineering. The internet provides numerous adverse references to her including a vote of no confidence by SABC news staff and the following assessment of her – he incorrectly calls her Noluthando – by Julius Malema:

The (SABC) news department is still a mess. There is a person there called Noluthando. She’s still eating a Gupta curry.

Noluthando must be removed from the news of SABC. They still write the script for her. She still eats curry and Noluthando is the one that gave the Guptas Morning Live, so that they can do that failed show called New Age Breakfast Show.

We are saying to the board, we don’t want to put too much pressure on you, but please attend to the news department of SABC. They are still controlled from Saxon shebeen, scripts are still written in Saxon shebeen. The news headlines are still decided in the Saxon shebeen because of a lady called Noluthando – a puppet of Hlaudi.

She knows nothing about news, she’s too junior. There’s a lot of capable females in that SABC that can be given that responsibility – they will run it successfully.

We want a proper-run SABC.

Proof of this de facto policy of reporters being forced by senior news executives to broadcast propaganda favourable to the ANC and to censor any news which does not redound to the ANC’s credit is contained in a transcript of a recorded meeting Nyana Molete held with senior SABC news editors in Johannesburg on 3 September 2015.

This transcript is part of a CCMA hearing and it is thus in the public domain.

The malevolent influence of these ANC-supporting enforcers and of their deployed cadre handlers is still being felt as the second anchor quote on this article indicates.

Here is an extract from that recording in which Molete aptly uses the word bullshit to describe ANC-promoting propaganda which SABC news personnel are compelled, against their will and in conflict with all the norms of ethical journalism, to broadcast. The essence of what NAT NEWS EDITOR (Molete) is saying in this transcript is that there are times when ANC propaganda is sacrosanct copy and must not be touched. Let’s accept that with good grace, he says, let’s not stress about it and I will do my best as national news editor to manage this sordid process – which is the antithesis of honest and honourable journalism – in a way which lessens its adverse  emotional impact upon us. In short, he is asking his subordinates to sell their souls but to try and put a brave face on it. The transcriber makes the point in the full version of the recording which is appended to this article, that names are interpreted phonetically. The Jimmy referred to in the transcription is obviously Jimi (The door or the window) Matthews. To get a better understanding of the dynamics at play here, it is worth revisiting the YouTube evidence of SABC8 parliamentary reporter Lukhanyo Calata and a PDF transcription of his evidence before the ad hoc committee investigation into the SABC which is included with this article.

His profound contempt for the censorship by Nyana Molete and Vuyani Green is constantly manifest in his testimony.

Nyana Molete News Editors Meeting

18 Nov 16 Vanara and Calata

What is significant is that Molete twice refers during the meeting with the SABC news editors to the malevolence of his colleague and the head of TV news, Nothando Maseko, who is regarded with contempt by Julius Malema.

I generally found a way of us being nice about it but if Notandu is here it is your problem.

Molete then specifically refers to putting a protective barrier – himself – between reporters and Maseko.

I also want to, but this is going to be a difficult one, I also want to try and protect and create gap between you guys and Notandu because in certain situations I have seen that it has not been quite nice, I will rather even her if she has got instructions to do stuff, she does it through me because I can charm you.

In the transcript below I have underlined the relevant sections pertaining to the SABC’s de facto, in-house censorship by omission to protect and promote the interests of the ANC in contravention of our constitutional right of access to the deliberately omitted information.  

NAT NEWS EDITOR: and the English bulletin has been intimidated into not touching certain stories.

FEMALE: By whom?

NAT NEWS EDITOR: By all of us including Jimmy and myself but, no I am joking here, no, no, no.

FEMALE: But we sorted out this whole thing of like parliamentary systems and politics at that meeting that you had.

NAT NEWS EDITOR: What meeting?

FEMALE: With the regional people.

NAT NEWS EDITOR: No it was not sorted out, it was not sorted out, it was not even discussed, even the issue of a political editor was not discussed, it was not discussed, for now we will deal with issues that we can deal with.

FEMALE: No but like this is my question, so do we check parliamentary copy and politics copy?

NAT NEWS EDITOR: I think we should, I think we should, I do not see any reason why we should not, if we are the, if we are the copy and we are the kind of central production I think we should. There are times when, let me, okay again let us not be, let us be adults about this, there are times when there is bullshit that comes out of parliament, that must come out of parliament in a particular way right, in order for that bullshit to go on air you do not touch the scripts because if you do touch the scripts you are going to do what is proper journalism and you are not going to allow the bullshit to go through right.

Now me there have been times where I have told you to put bullshit on air and I am not going to beat about the bush about that, there are times when I need to give you an instruction to put shit on air, we may on that day Donell will come to my office and we will spend half an hour me counselling her but the reason for that kind of stuff is so that some bullshit is not interfered with but generally speaking, now when there is that kind of bullshit I may, I will come to you but because we work in this environment I do not know how I am going to act on that particular, I do not know whether I will come in and look angry and give you an instruction or I will come to you and be nice and say look they say this and this and that but at the end of the day the reality of our situation is that we are sometimes forced to put shit on air.

That and most of that shit will be coming from parliament or politics, sometimes from Bloemfontein so I am making it a joke but it is, and sometimes we do things, we actually do things or we are forced to do things that are completely against what we stand for, the attitude that I have adopted is that it does not happen everyday and if you do not do that kind of stuff you create for yourselves more stress and bad energy than some of us can deal with so that is the long and short of it, we check those stories, we do check those stories, if it is one of those that there would be issues around and I am here, I generally found a way of us being nice about it but if Notandu is here it is your problem.

FEMALE: That Isabel…[inaudible] was a standing instruction from Jimmy and Ntandu that stories signed off by her and Vuyane we do not need to check any longer.

NAT NEWS EDITOR: I mean how many times have we got into stories that Vuyane has checked and made them make changes and it does not mean that when it comes from Vuyane it is perfect or when it comes from Isabel it is perfect, no but I think that is why I am saying that that is the problem, that is the problem, I think the problem is that to deal with a particular issue at a particular time Jimmy said one thing and Jimmy forgot to tell them that it is not a permanent thing.

NAT NEWS EDITOR: Jimmy must go back and tell them that we can check the stuff and then because we are adults we will deal with issues as they come along and if there is that kind of bullshit that we have to do, I must be told that, I must be given an instruction that this one you must run and I also want to, but this is going to be a difficult one, I also want to try and protect and create gap between you guys and Notandu because in certain situations I have seen that it has not been quite nice, I will rather even her if she has got instructions to do stuff she does it through me because I can charm you

NAT NEWS EDITOR: If they can allow us to do our work and if that kind of stuff if it comes through me I think it …[intervenes]

FEMALE: Can we then agree that we do not need to touch the bullshit?

NAT NEWS EDITOR: No, no I will look at the bullshit, we will, if you feel that, look I mean there will be bullshit from time to time but let us deal with one bullshit at a time.

What is clear is that there are ample grounds in the parliamentary evidence before the ad hoc committee and in this CCMA transcript for the dismissal of Nyana Molete, Nothando Maseko and Vuyani Green because their conduct is clearly in conflict with the edicts contained in the SABC’s code of editorial conduct which includes, inter alia:

    • We shall report, contextualise, and present news honestly by striving to disclose all essential facts and by not suppressing relevant, available facts, or distorting by wrong or improper emphasis.
  • We shall evaluate information solely on merit, and shall not allow advertising, commercial, political or personal considerations to influence our editorial decisions.
  • We shall seek balance through the presentation as far as possible of relevant viewpoints on matters of importance.
  • We shall prevail on news merit and judgement in reaching editorial decisions.
  • We shall be enterprising in perceiving, pursuing and presenting, issues, which affect society and the individual, in serving the public’s right to know.
  • We shall be free from obligation to any interest group and shall be committed to the public’s right to know the truth.

No action will be taken against Molete, Maseko and Green because the SABC  is controlled by the African National Congress which is running it infinitely more corruptly  – in every sense of the word – than was the case during the apartheid era.

The ANC, innately and instinctively corrupt, has once again packed the SABC board with its praise-singing apparatchiks. President Jacob Zuma, has learned from his predecessor, Thabo Mbeki, who guaranteed the bankruptcy of the state broadcaster when he imposed upon the SABC board his imbongis like Christine Qunta and Thami Mazwai and selected Snuki Zikalala – cited for human rights abuses before the TRC – to head the news division.

SABC headquarters in Johannesburg, South Africa

Zuma has done exactly the same, despite the SABC having now been bankrupted by the ANC’s deployed parasites for the second time.

He delayed announcing the new SABC board until he could appoint two cronies to the most influential positions on it.

Bongumusa Makhathini, the new chairman, was previously chairman of the foundation of one of Zuma’s wives, Bongi Ngema-Zuma.

Makhathini’s deputy is Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, an ANC activist who was appointed as an advisor to Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma during her tenure at the African Union Commission. Furthermore, as R2k points out, she is a candidate for appointment to the ANC National Executive Committee.

There can be little doubt that the instruction reflected by a BEMAWU member in one of the anchor quotes to this article, came either from them or their sycophantic proxies in the state broadcaster’s news department. This is how the ANC rolls.

qnState broadcaster enforcers like Nyana Molete, Nothando Maseko and Vuyani Green defile the basic tenets of ethical news gathering and dissemination because they willingly make themselves part of the ANC’s venal, corrupt and oppressive system.

In the end, Bongumusa Makhathini, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, Nyana Molete, Nothando Maseko and Vuyani Green are just SABC puppets.

The ventriloquist, an Enemy of the People, sits in the Union Buildings.

You and I are the paying audience.

This is a matter of profound public interest because tens of millions of people rely on SABC news broadcasts for information on current happenings and their understanding of such events. To deny such access violates the human rights provisions of the Constitution.

  • Ed Herbst is a retired veteran journalist who writes in his own capacity.