Suspended SABC journalist Vuyo Mvoko could know by Friday whether the SABC will reinstate him.
The high court in Joburg was expected give a verdict on the matter between the veteran journalist and the public broadcaster on Friday morning. The ruling could see Mvoko either being reinstated or being told to await the outcome of the SABC’s probe.
He was suspended following an article he penned for The Star, in which he criticised the censorship and culture of bullying at the corporation.
Mvoko, who worked as a contributing editor, and seven other SABC journalists were fired last month for challenging the broadcaster’s editorial policy. His colleagues have since been reinstated.
The SABC suspended Mvoko, who was hired on a three-year contract, pending an investigation after the public broadcaster accused him of breaching his contract by bringing the corporation into disrepute.
The broadcaster insisted that the matter should not have escalated to the court as they were still investigating it.
However, Mvoko’s advocate, Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, asked the court on Thursday to deal with the matter on an urgent basis.
Among the reasons cited was that Mvoko’s constitutional right had been violated when his contract was terminated. as he was entitled to free speech.
Ngcukaitobi asked the court to deal with the matter urgently and make a ruling reinstating his client as the dispute between the two parties involved the public’s right to uncensored news.
“This matter deserves the court’s immediate attention because every day it is not dealt with, the public are being harmed as they have a right to know what is going on in the country.”
Ngcukaitobi added that the matter also involved Mvoko’s colleagues at the SABC as “the axe could fall on them at any time” if they spoke out against the corporation.
Ngcukaitobi also said Mvoko’s suspension had meant that he had been without income since he wrote the article last month, and this had affected him as well as three others who depend on him financially.
But the SABC hit back, insisting that Mvoko wasn’t interested in the public interest but more “for his own pocket”.
The corporation’s lawyer, Stefan du Toit, told the court that Mvoko’s claim that his visibility was being affected by the SABC taking him off air was evidence that his reinstatement was for his own personal interest and not for the public at large.
Du Toit lambasted Mvoko for not waiting for the SABC to finalise its investigation before he confronted the court with the matter. He added that the suspended journalist could not personally attack those at the SABC and not expect repercussions, as there was a breakdown in trust and confidence in him following the article he wrote.
Last Thursday, moments before he was due to appear in court, Mvoko was told that he could have his position back if he retracted everything he had written. He turned down the offer.