Sunday, July 11, 2010

SABC news boss Molefe bans Mbeki

Luthuli House refuses to say if it gave the order

Jul 11, 2010 12:00 AM | By Moiipone Malefane

Interviews with former president Thabo Mbeki and items about him have been banned on all SABC radio stations and television channels.

Thabo Mbeki
It amounts to the print media ... trying to spy into our editorial meetings

The Sunday Times can reveal that the instruction to stop giving coverage to Mbeki was issued by the public broadcaster's embattled acting head of news, Phil Molefe.

Molefe is alleged to have called a meeting of senior news executives two weeks ago - also attended by the head of television news, Amrit Manga, and acting head of radio Zolisa Sigabi - and told them that Mbeki's appearances on SABC TV undermined ANC leader President Jacob Zuma.

A senior manager, who was at the meeting, said Molefe told them that he got his instructions from Luthuli House, the ANC headquarters. The manager, who did not wish to be named, said Molefe made it clear Mbeki should get no coverage at all.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said yesterday that Molefe denied giving such an order. "It is totally untrue."

The SABC was "concerned about this", he said. "It amounts to the print media interfering in the editorial independence of the SABC by trying to spy into our editorial meetings."

But an SABC insider told the Sunday Times Molefe called another meeting, at 10am on Tuesday, after getting a phone-call from ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu, who asked about the reliability of Molefe's information that Mbeki be banned from the SABC.

At the meeting, Molefe is said to have demanded that Manga and Sigabi tell him who leaked the information to the ANC. Molefe is alleged to have demanded a report on the source of the leak before telling the two executives that he would never trust them again.

SABC insiders believe Molefe's decision was sparked by an interview the broadcaster conducted with Mbeki after Ghana's World Cup quarterfinal victory over the US.

During the interview, Mbeki congratulated the Black Stars of Ghana on their performance in the soccer tournament, and called on the people of Africa to rally behind Ghana.

Mbeki had also appeared on SABC current affairs show Interface.

The interviews sparked excitement among his supporters, who posted congratulatory messages on Facebook.

Some Mbeki supporters asked where he had been, while others said they wished that he could speak publicly more often.

Mbeki's spokesman, Mukoni Ratshitanga, said his office was not aware of the ban.

However, other sources close to the ousted president said he was aware of the development, but did not want to be involved in the controversy.

Mthembu, who would neither confirm nor deny the reports yesterday, said he "would not want to comment on the matter".

This is not the first time Molefe has issued instructions for certain people to be banned from the state broadcaster.

In May, when the controversy around his appointment as permanent head of news erupted, he allegedly ordered SABC journalists not to give air time to SABC deputy board chairman Felleng Sekha.

This was after Sekha went public with her criticism of Molefe's appointment by the chairman of the SABC's board, Ben Ngubane, who was accused of acting unilaterally when he appointed Molefe.

The board later reversed Ngubane's decision, and criticised both Ngubane and SABC group chief executive Solly Mokoetle for making the appointment without following the correct procedure.

If Molefe's instruction on Mbeki stands, it would make Mbeki the first former head of state in South Africa to be banned by the public broadcaster. This week, former president FW de Klerk was interviewed about issues relating to education.

SABC news executives are struggling to find answers as to where exactly Molefe's directive came from: Luthuli House or Mahlambandlovu, the presidential residence in Pretoria.

Times Alive

Comments by Sonny

The traitor of the sick, deceased and needy!

When God becomes a bottle of Black Label!

It's not always good to have enemies in high places.

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