The SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
The SABC’s Auckland Park headquarters. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

Parliament on Wednesday condemned the continued death threats directed at the SABC 8 and any other witness who appeared before the inquiry into the crisis at the public broadcaster.

It emerged on Wednesday that Vuyo Mvoko, former SABC contributing editor, received a threatening text message after he testified on behalf of the SABC 8.

The message read: "Traitors. Protecting your white friends in parliament who started this, telling lies about your comrades. You are warned. We don’t kill blacks, but sit and watch the blood flow".

Mvoko testified on Monday that the financially hamstrung SABC has been channelling money to ANN7, the Gupta-owned rival 24-hour news TV station. He said the SABC was essentially using its own money and resources to build ANN7.

Parliament has asked police to investigate the threats directed at the journalists.

"The committee regards the threats as a direct assault on the institution of Parliament," ad hoc committee chairman Vincent Smith said on Wednesday.

"We reiterate our call to the crime-fighting agencies to assist and ensure that all witnesses appearing before the inquiry are protected. We condemn any attempt to subvert accountability to Parliament."

He said the committee was seriously worried that SABC management seemed unaware of this "life-threatening situation faced by the journalists", following board chairman Mbulaheni Maguvhe’s testimony on Tuesday where he told MPs that he didn’t know about the threats.

On Monday, the SABC 8 detailed Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s "reign of terror" at the SABC, saying public service journalism "is dying" at the broadcaster

Suna Venter‚ Foeta Krige‚ Krivani Pillay‚ Thandeka Gqubule‚ Busisiwe Ntuli‚ Lukhanyo Calata‚ Mvoko and Jacques Steenkamp were axed by the public broadcaster earlier in 2016 for speaking out against its policy of not showing footage of violent protests.

They were later reinstated following a Labour Court ruling‚ and last month vowed to continue with a Constitutional Court battle against the SABC despite reportedly being intimidated and receiving death threats.

Asked by ad hoc committee member Jabulani Mahlangu to describe Motsoeneng, Gqubule said: "He [Motsoeneng] is not a journalist; he sells broadcasting technologies to the highest political bidders".

She said the SABC board was complicit in the death of journalism at the public broadcaster.

"Public service journalism is dying at the SABC … the ‘protest policy’ is the straw that broke the camel’s back…. I have decided to say no to the reign of terror by Mr Motsoeneng and his cohorts," said Gqubule.

SABC news had become tainted with politicians, including Communications Minister Faith Muthambi, constantly dictating how journalists cover certain stories, said Gqubule.

She detailed an incident where former Eskom CEO Brian Molefe shouted at a presenter behind the scenes for asking unfavourable questions during an interview.

Gqubule said the crisis in the newsroom did not necessarily start with Motsoeneng, but he exacerbated the situation with "crude underhandedness".

She suggested that Motsoeneng or any other executive should be prevented from having any control of editorial decisions.

Earlier on Wednesday the ad hoc committee heard from various nongovernmental organisations on the crisis at the SABC.

Call for Muthambi’s removal

The Right2Know (R2K) campaign told the committee that Muthambi was not fit to be minister and called for her removal. The pressure group also said Parliament should ensure that a new board was constituted through a transparent process.

Media Monitoring Africa director William Bird said dissolving the board would not be enough and called for the public broadcaster’s independence to be entrenched, much like a Chapter 9 institution.

Bird also said that there needs to be a thorough investigation into the controversial R550m deal the SABC agreed with MultiChoice.

The inquiry continues Wednesday afternoon, when Muthambi is due to testify.

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