Former South African Broadcasting Corporation acting CEO Jimi Matthews has confirmed that the public broadcaster banned coverage of the Economic Freedom Fighters ahead of the 2014 general elections.
Speaking to author and radio host Eusebius Mckaiser on his new show Meet The Media on eNCA on Sunday‚ Mathews said the decision not to cover the EFF was made by “certain individuals” including COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
“Certain individuals in the ruling party including people like Hlaudi were of the view that we should not be giving Julius and his crowd coverage‚” Matthews said.
He added: “I should have said ‘no that’s ridiculous’ certainly‚ with the growing popularity around the 2014 elections and if anything the EFF is out of all the political parties probably the masters of the media so we should have given them a lot more coverage… That is one of the decisions I was part of and from a journalistic point of view is unjustified.”
Matthews resigned from the SABC on Monday following mounting pressure on the public broadcaster after its recent decisions not to broadcast footage of protests or any negative reports about President Jacob Zuma.
The former acting CEO told the City Press newspaper that Motsoeneng “is conducting a reign of terror at the SABC‚ where people are being bludgeoned to toe the line”.
ANC wants probe into Motsoeneng’s powers
The ANC has changed its tune on SABC boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng, with party spokesman Zizi Kodwa now calling on Communications Minister Faith Muthambi and the board to launch a probe into the chief operating officer.
This week Kodwa was one of the SABC’s most vocal defenders, as Motsoeneng came under fire for suspending three journalists who objected to his instructions that violent protests not be reported on by the state broadcaster.
But yesterday the ANC spokesman said the party wanted Muthambi and the SABC board to investigate the allegations levelled against Motsoeneng.
Kodwa said the probe should look into “serious” allegations that Motsoeneng abused his power and that he had undermined the SABC’s editorial policies, failed to carry out its public mandate and suspended people “willy-nilly”.
The tough stance flies in the face of Kodwa’s earlier comments.
The ANC spokesman came under fire even from within his party, with national executive committee members Tito Mboweni and Derek Hanekom on Friday breaking ranks from Kodwa’s stance and openly supporting media freedom.
But yesterday Kodwa denied he had defended Motsoeneng, arguing that his statements were only in opposition to “the opportunists” who sought to use the SABC crisis for their own political ends.
He singled out Solidarity and former Cosatu leader Zwelinzima Vavi, who broke away from the ANC-led alliance to establish his own political outfit, as among those who wanted to “take advantage”.
Vavi and trade union Solidarity were among those who marched on the SABC on Friday, protesting and demanding an end to the censorship of news.
This week six SABC senior journalists were charged for challenging Motsoeneng’s ban on protests.
Kodwa said that the ANC was of the view that a COO could not act unilaterally. “Hlaudi will come and pass. Nobody must have that power,” he said.
However, Motsoeneng has been emboldened by the unwavering support he enjoys from Muthambi.
Muthambi this week questioned the motives and timing of the resignation of acting SABC CEO Jimi Matthews.
Insiders say Muthambi would continue defending Motsoeneng because she believes factions within the ANC are determined to capture the SABC ahead of the party’s elective conference next year.
Muthambi was not available for comment this week.
Muthambi has fought to protect Motsoeneng up to the Supreme Court of Appeal, where she is appealing against a judgment from the High Court in Cape Town which set aside his appointment as “irrational and unlawful”.
Despite the high court ruling against him, Motsoeneng remains in his position.