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SABC staff were gripped by anger and fear, commission report finds

The commission’s chairperson Dr Joe Thloloe on Monday released a report into editorial interference on Monday.

Dr Joe Thloloe, the chairperson of the commission of inquiry Into editorial independence. Picture: Sethembiso Zulu/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - A report into editorial interference at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) by a commission found that there was an abuse of power at the public broadcaster, which was used to terrorise staff.

The commission’s chairperson Dr Joe Thloloe on Monday released the report in Auckland Park.

The report detailed how the abuse of power resulted in the parastatal deflecting from its mandate and editorial policies.

The commission dealt with a number of allegations, including personal favours in the newsroom, and within the SABC. It found that the public broadcaster was crippled by pain, anger, and fear due to the improper use of power and authority.

Although it found no evidence of direct influence from the African National Congress in decisions of the SABC’s newsroom, Tlholoe said the spectre of the governing party hovered over the newsroom.

The report recommended, among others, that instructions by former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng to human resources to institute disciplinary action, promote or dismiss employees, should be reviewed.

PEOPLE WITH NO AUTHORITY

The report also highlighted how executives took instructions from people that had no authority in the public broadcaster’s newsroom.

Former Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and SABC board member Ellen Tshabalala have been fingered in the report.

The report found evidence that between 2012 and 2017, the SABC failed to execute its duties in line with its editorial policies.

Muthambi and Tshabalala have been implicated in giving instructions to people in the newsroom despite having no authority to do so.

Thloloe said: “The commission found that the SABC suffered from capricious use of authority and power to terrorise staff and to deflect the corporation from its mandate and editorial policies.”

The commission also found a number of SABC news senior staff were instrumental in carrying out instructions from former executives including Motsoeneng, Jimi Mathews and Simon Tebele.

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