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A state broadcaster bewitched

Once upon a time in a land filled with racism and political malevolence stood tall a building belonging to the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC). The SABC was a powerful force that had the ability to whisper in the minds of people and influence their thoughts. But it was run by some very bad, evil mongers who used it to spread evil around the land. Those who called dibs on controlling it whispered all sorts of lies to the people and that made some people very, very cross. They were called 'the gatekeepers' and they were the ones who chose what evil tricks they wanted the people to believe.

Then suddenly, a little fairy came along and sprinkled some magic on the land and it became free and the vice gatekeepers were expelled. People were delighted, the land was happy. They sang and danced as they celebrated the forthcoming peace and harmony. The SABC was no longer a sinister power. The new gatekeepers let out the truth and allowed the people to know what was happening in the land in 11 different languages.

As time passed, the magic lapsed and the menacing power revisited the land. It came slowly. Quietly. The gatekeepers started becoming like their evil predecessors. They had an agenda. It was a dark world. The gatekeepers got their minions to whisper lies. They chose what the people should hear. They influenced minds. They favoured leaders. They hated others.

I woke up. I was so relieved that it was all a dream and South Africa and its official state broadcaster was still under the charming spell of happiness and prosperity, also known as democracy. But to my disappointment my dream was pretty much the reality. What was once seen as the hope of the people now became the weapon of the powerful.

As of late the SABC has come under intense scrutiny for its role in politicking and agenda setting. It is no longer considered an unswerving news source but has become the mouthpiece of certain politicians. The 'power' became a tactic to persuade the people and push a political motive. It has the muscle of 18 radio stations (AM and FM) as well as 3 television stations, including huge budgets and Mercedes-driven journalists.

And as South Africa becomes dark and divided, the SABC paints a glossy picture of white-toothed politicians with crisp designer suits working for the people.

The problem now however, is that politicians are hungry for power and managers and CEOs' are hungry for political backing and financial endorsements. News is not reported on merit but rather on political schemas. This is not as shocking as it is disheartening. What can be used as a seed of hope is now turning in to a cloud of darkness- and they know it too. SABC chairperson Dr Ben Ngubane told parliament on Tuesday that the SABC board has "degenerated into serious dysfunctionality".

The SABC board had passed a vote of no confidence in the board member Cawekazi Mahlati and on Tuesday asked parliament to suspend her, a report said. And if you think that's bad; five months after being placed on "special leave" the disciplinary hearing against the SABC's head of news and current affairs, Phil Molefe, keeps being postponed.

That is not all. In the past their political bias would unwittingly peep out in their news coverage but now it has become blatant, smacking waves of arrogance and nonchalance. They openly snubbed expelled ANC Youth League President Julius Malema - a reason enough to doubt their agenda. I am however not advocating that all media houses should become Malema groupies but like National Press Club chairman Yusuf Abramjee said: editorial coverage should be on merit "finish and klaar".

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) is also fed up - yes they still exist and Buthelezi is still alive and kicking. But they somehow became irrelevant in the political arena because they died a media death. "For years the IFP has continuously engaged the SABC over its anti-IFP coverage and the way in which opposition parties are not fairly represented on all of the public broadcaster's radio and television channels. This year, for example, two of the IFP's three major events - its Freedom Day and Women's Day rally - did not receive TV coverage at all," said the IFP in a statement.

They are marching to the SABC headquarters in Auckland Park on Friday while the trade union Mwasa plans to be picketing outside the SABC on Monday 19 September. It may or may not be fruitful and productive but it sure sends a strong message. With many reliable media alternatives available, many have shifted their long standing allegiance. The SABC has to rectify its actions both on corporate and editorial fronts- at least if its top guns still want six digit salaries and crisp suits.

Qaanitah Hunter is a chronic talker. She pens her words at times. Mostly she is called a young vibrant journalist. You can reach on twitter @QaanitahHunter

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