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ANC brings MPs into SABC battle

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In a battle of David versus Goliath proportions, the ANC has called in its lawmakers in the National Assembly in the continuing fight with the defiant SABC board.

The state broadcaster is in open defiance against the ruling party, adding the ANC to the growing list of institutions the SABC management has thumbed its nose at, including the courts, civil society groups, Chapter 9 institutions and regulators.

SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s latest antics were his defiance of a ruling by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) calling on the broadcaster to lift its ban on visuals of violent protests within seven days.

Motsoeneng, who is viewed as a key ally of President Jacob Zuma, effectively told his detractors to go jump, saying the broadcaster would not change its censorship policy. The Icasa ruling, he said, would be reviewed and if need be challenged in the Constitutional Court.

The ANC, which has been criticised for its lax approach in enforcing its will on its deployees in government and state institutions, has now called on its parliamentary caucus to give the public broadcaster “the requisite attention”.

On Tuesday, ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe said all matters relating to corporate governance challenges at the broadcaster would receive urgent attention. He was briefing the media at Luthuli House in Joburg.

The broadcaster’s “high turnover” of chief executives was among issues to be addressed, with suspended SABC group chief executive Frans Matlala reportedly reaching an R18 million settlement with the broadcaster on Tuesday.

Choosing his words carefully and shying away from naming anyone, Mantashe warned the SABC management against defying rulings by Chapter 9 institutions, saying this was tantamount to cutting one’s nose to spite one’s face.

The ANC welcomed the Icasa ruling, and Tuesday’s national working committee meeting “reaffirmed the correctness” of the ANC’s communications subcommittee position on the SABC.

The subcommittee has come out against the broadcaster’s censorship, saying it contradicted ANC policy and the supreme law of the country.

It was not long before the SABC hit back, characterising the ANC statement as misleading.

Mantashe said: “I’m hoping people in the SABC will realise that to defy everybody in society does not make them a better public broadcaster.

“Being proud of being defiant and you are a public broadcaster is a contradiction in terms. Somebody must whisper in the ear of the leadership of the SABC (and say) you can’t be a bull in a china shop breaking everything.”

The broadcaster also ran the risk of “learning a hard lesson” if it defied the Icasa ruling, Mantashe said, adding: “That’s the advice we can give to the SABC.”

This appeared to be a veiled reference to the unfortunate example set by Zuma in his recent dealings with statutory institutions.

After Monday’s Icasa ruling, SABC board member Dr Aaron Tshidzumba sought to minimise the regulator’s authority.

He dismissed Icasa as a mere Chapter 9 institution and not a court of law, saying it could only make recommendations.

This appears to mirror the mistake made by Zuma when he failed to comply with the Public Protector’s remedial actions on non-security upgrades at his Nkandla home.

Zuma and his supporters argued that the remedial actions were not binding and dismissed them as mere recommendations.

“The matter ended with the Constitutional Court ruling Zuma failed to uphold, defend and respect the consti-tution for the non-compliance.

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