Opposition parties react to Acting SABC CEO’s departure

BY CHARL BOSCH - JUNE 27, 2016

A number of opposition parties have described the surprise resignation of South African Broadcasting (SABC) Acting CEO Jimi Matthews as not only concerning, but the clearest indication yet that the public broadcaster is turning into a state broadcaster.

In a letter addressed to SABC Chairperson Mbulayeni Maguvhe on Monday, Matthews said a “corrosive atmosphere” at the broadcaster “had impacted negatively on my moral judgement”, and “what is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it”.

“For many months I have compromised the values that I hold dear under the mistaken belief that I could be more effective inside the SABC than outside, passing comment from the side-lines. I also wish to apologise to the many people who I’ve let down by remaining silent when my voice needed to be heard,” Matthews said.

Speaking in a statement, Democratic Alliance (DA) National Spokesperson and Shadow Minister of Communications, Phumzile van Damme, said Matthews’s resignation comes as a direct result of controversial SABC Chief Operations Officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, wanting to turn “the broadcaster into his own personal fiefdom hell-bent on reporting only good news about the ANC and President Jacob Zuma”.

Motsoeneng has come under a barrage of criticism since announcing last month that the broadcaster would no longer show violent protests on television, as it could encourage others to do the same.

In a rebuttal, van Damme said the ban was mainly due to the ANC trying to hide its failed service delivery record, as well as being scrutinised for not delivering on its promises.

“Under Motsoeneng’s tenure, the SABC has earned a disclaimer of opinion from the Auditor-General, entered into an unethical and dubious deal with MultiChoice, staffed its upper management with inadequately educated and experienced people, maintains and plans to expand a financially unsustainable head count fallen behind in the transition to digital terrestrial television and continues to lose audience share. This cannot be allowed to persist and Mr Motsoeneng must be fired”.

In a similar reaction, Congress of the People (Cope) spokesperson Dennis Bloem said Matthews’ departure amounts to the biggest indictment yet against Motsoeneng and the ANC.

“There is not one single brave and moral person in the whole of the ANC to speak up against the harm that Hlaudi Motsoeneng is doing to the SABC and to South Africa. However, living under the ANC’s increasing autocracy, court judgments don’t matter and public opinion has no currency,” Bloem said.

“For the CEO of SABC to say, “What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of It” is utterly damning of the SABC and the ANC. Only the ANC which is now corrupt to the very core thinks that Hlaudi Motsoeneng is a great star and that what he is doing is the best for the SABC and for South Africa”.

In a series of tweets, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) however accused Matthews of being central to what has happened at the SABC, and that he “cannot speak abt (sic) what is happening "inside the SABC" when he never put up any fight within!”

“We know that @jimimatthews is not the savior of SABC. He was there all along, defending, eating & rising on the back of wrong things,” the party tweeted before remarking “We know the internal voices of resistance in SABC. Mr. @jimimatthews is not part of them. He worked to silences moral conscience in others”.