Solidarity to approach court over suspended SABC journalists as broadcaster challenges Icasa ruling


Trade union Solidarity has said it would approach the Labour Court to obtain an urgent interdict against the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s failure to withdraw charges against eight journalist suspended for questioning the broadcaster’s decision not to show violent protests on television.

Last week, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (Icasa) ruled that the broadcaster acted unlawfully by refusing to show the destruction of property, describing it censorship and calling for the ban to be lifted by July 18th.

This comes after the SABC announced it would be taking disciplinary action against Economics Editor Thandeka Gqubule, Parliamentary Correspondent Lukhanyo Calata, Specialist Presenter Vuyo Mvoko, Special Assignment Executive Producer Busi Ntuli, Senior Investigative Journalist Jacque Steenkamp, SAfm Current Affairs Executive Producer Krivani Pillay, Radio Sonder Grense (RSG) Executive Producer Foeta Krige and RSG Senior Journalist Suna Venter, for allegedly questioning the ruling imposed by controversial Chief Operations Officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

In a statement, Solidarity CEO Dirk Hermann said the decision to suspended the journalists based on an alleged unlawful instruction, amounts to unfair labour practises, adding that the broadcaster’s sending of a letter accusing the eight of committing “further misbehaviour” by speaking out, cannot be tolerated.

“We therefore believe that the individuals concerned have a very strong case against the SABC for the very reason that the charges laid against them by their employer are inconsistent with the Constitution,” Hermann said.

Over the weekend, CityPress, citing alleged court documents, claimed Motsoeneng  also barred SABC staff from speaking negatively about President Jacob Zuma, reportedly stating that they were however free to discuss anyone else.

“You must adhere to my instruction. President Zuma is the president of the country. I do not regard him as ANC. You cannot treat him the same. You can question everyone except our president. We need to respect him,” he reportedly told staff at a local government elections workshop in North West last month.

The paper also claimed that the broadcaster informed Icasa in a letter it would not lift the ban until provided with more information, and that Motsoeneng had threatened to have its lawyers take the matter further.