2 SABC news execs say they're not liable for journos’ legal bills

Four senior journalists were fired after voicing their concerns over the SABC's editorial policies.

FILE: The offices of the SABC in Johannesburg. Picture: Christa Eybers/EWN.

JOHANNESBURG - Two South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) news executives have submitted court papers to the Labour Court in Johannesburg explaining why they should not be held personally liable for legal bills incurred by four journalists who were dismissed from the public broadcaster.

Last week, the court found that the dismissals of Foeta Krige, Krivani Pillay, Suna Veter and Jacques Steenkamp were unlawful and ordered the broadcaster to reinstate them with immediate effect.

The senior journalists were fired after voicing their concern over the broadcaster's policy of banning footage of violent protests.

SABC general manager for radio news and current affairs Sebolelo Ditlhakanyane says she was in Durban attending the International Aids Conference on the day she was informed of the SABC's decision to terminate the journalists' contracts.

Ditlhakanyane says Mololo Tebele, SABC acting group executive of news and current affairs, was the one who took the decision "pursuant to external legal advice".

She says between May, when SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng announced the corporation's decision not to broadcast footage of violent protests, and June, when the dismissal letters were issued, she made it clear that she didn't agree with warning letters and only implemented the decision because she was instructed to do so by Tebele.

Tebele, meanwhile, says he believes he didn't act recklessly or with malice and that at all material times he thought his actions were legally correct.

He says he was "acting and guided by the SABC policies and or the disciplinary code of conduct".