President Jacob Zuma is using SABC Chief Operating Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng to turn the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster, Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maine said on Monday.
“Jacob Zuma has captured state institutions… So what has happened now is that he has deployed people to institutions of government, whether those people are at the NPA (National Prosecuting Authority), whether it’s at SAA (South African Airways) and now we are seeing it at the SABC,” Maimane told reporters in Soshanguve, Tshwane, at the launch of his party’s manifesto in the region.
He said Motsoeneng should have resigned from his position after Public Protector Thuli Madonsela released a report against him.
“[He] should have resigned at that point, but because he is doing the ANC’s own bidding he has captured the SABC.”
Hlaudi’s actions had penetrated so deeply that even editorial decisions were now being made on the basis of political interests, Maimane said.
“He is turning a public broadcaster into a state broadcaster, which I’m afraid is no different to the apartheid project.”
People were leaving the public broadcaster as a result of Motsoeneng’s leadership, he said.
Three senior members of staff were suspended last week for allegedly contravening an order not to cover a Right2Know protest. The rights group was protesting an order by Motsoeneng in May for the SABC to stop broadcasting violent protests.
At the time, he said airing violent footage would encourage others to imitate such actions. He had provided no empirical evidence to support his reasoning.
Three board members were also removed from the SABC last year, including the late Hope Zinde, and accused of disclosing confidential board information at an ANC workshop.
On Monday morning, acting CEO Jimi Matthews resigned, saying recent changes at the broadcaster were “wrong” and that he had compromised his values under the broadcaster’s current leadership.
Matthews said the “corrosive atmosphere” had impacted negatively on his moral judgement and made him complicit in decisions he “was not proud of”.
“What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it,” he said in his resignation letter, which he published on Twitter.
Maimane commended Matthews for his act and vowed to stop Motsoeneng.
“I want to commend the courage of Jimi Matthews who has spoken out… Therefore I will be taking all the action that we can [to ensure] that Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s project of SABC capture cannot continue.”
Employees of the SABC and the South African public needed a public broadcaster which was transparent and not censored, so that it could hold its government to account, he said.