DA to write to Communication’s Portfolio chairperson requesting a meeting with SABC

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Editorial Note: This story has been updated to include Phathiswa Magopeni’s letter sent to the SABC’s Group Executive: Human Resources on January 27, 2022

The DA says it will be writing to Parliament’s Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Communications, Boyce Maneli, asking for an urgent meeting including the SABC Board and senior management regarding the dismissal of Head of News Phathiswa Magopeni.

The DA says it is concerned that the editorial independence of the SABC may once again be under threat.

The party says in a statement that there are worrying signs of efforts to politically recapture the SABC. It says comments last year by Jessie Duarte and Fikile Mbalula that blamed the SABC’s election coverage for the ANC’s poor showing in the 2021 elections were early signs of things to come.

BEMAWU calls for investigation

Labour Union BEMAWU is also calling for an urgent investigation to be conducted by Parliament’s Communications Portfolio Committee into the dismissal of Magopeni.

Unions respond to Magopeni’s axing:

Magopeni was axed by the public broadcaster, citing a breakdown in trust. A disciplinary hearing last year had found Magopeni guilty of misconduct after she allegedly failed to ensure that an interdicted Special Assignment programme was not aired.

The SABC then asked Magopeni to submit mitigating factors.

In a letter sent to the SABC’s Group Executive: Human Resources on January 27, 2022, Magopeni says, “I have considered your letter together with the Chairperson’s recommendation and dispute the SABC’s Group Chief Executive Officer’s, Madoda Mxakwe (“Mr Mxakwe”), and/or the SABC’s Board’s authority to consider my mitigating factors to determine the appropriate sanction. I submit that the process adopted by SABC in your letter together with the Chairperson’s recommendation in relation to the sanction is contrary to the provisions of the SABC’s Disciplinary
Code and Procedure (“the Code”). Given the incompetence of these proceedings, I am not legally obliged to provide any submissions in relation to mitigation, and my rights in this regard remain fully reserved.

Read below Magopeni’s letter to the SABC:

Meanwhile, BEMAWU’S Hannes du Buisson, “I am very concerned as we have seen the grievances that she has lodged and they are very serious grievances and we are acting in this point in time and not on her behalf but on behalf of the allegations made by her. And we are busy writing to the portfolio committee to ask for an investigation in respect of that and we have seen that the board has appointed a committee to investigate this which is absolute nonsense. You can not investigate yourself and that investigation must come from a different body and that body is the portfolio committee itself.”

SABC on Magopeni’s firing

The SABC says the decision to axe Magopeni was procedurally fair.

SABC spokesperson Gugu Ntuli, “The proceedings were initiated and of course, with and disciplinary process there has got to be a hearing and this was all an internal process however there was a request to have the hearing public and so the SABC adhered to that and it was chaired by Advocate Cassim. After having heard all the information provided and having heard also from the GE herself, he found her guilty of misconduct for failing to take the appropriate measures [to ensure the court order] was complied with.” – additional reporting by Sashin Naidoo

Ntuli elaborates:

6 months ago