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SABC board says allegations of interference by chair Bongumusa Makhathini unsubstantiated

Ernest Mabuza Journalist
SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini. File photo.
SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini. File photo.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Allegations made by former SABC head of news Phathiswa Magopeni against the public broadcaster's chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini have been found to be unsubstantiated, the SABC board said on Friday.

The board said a special committee was tasked with investigating the allegations made by Magopeni.

Magopeni was fired by the public broadcaster in January after a disciplinary hearing relating to an airing of a Special Assignment episode which had been interdicted and should not have been aired.

Magopeni lodged a grievance last year after the SABC started a disciplinary process against her concerning the Special Assignment incident. She lodged the grievance against Makhathini regarding two incidents of alleged interference by the board chairperson while she was head of news.

One relates to a phone call Makhathini made last year to Magopeni about an interview with President Cyril Ramaphosa. The other relates to the coverage of the Zulu royal family succession debacle which had ended up in court.

In a statement on Friday, the SABC board said it had adopted the report of the special committee, which had also not found anything indicating that Magopeni’s power to make a final decision in regard to editorial decisions was threatened or compromised in any way.

The report concluded that Makhathini’s actions in the matter did not constitute misconduct as envisaged in the Broadcasting Act.

The SABC board said the report had made a number of recommendations that will assist in improving the SABC’s editorial policies. 

One of the recommendations was that SABC board members should be sensitised and cautioned about engaging with SABC news staff on issues that are editorial in nature. 

Another recommendation is that the SABC needs to consider developing a clear policy or guidelines that deal with how board members should engage with news staff in regard to editorial matters outside formal SABC processes. 

The board said the special committee was not furnished with any information showing Makhathini threatened or bullied Magopeni.

“The special committee found that, if anything, [Magopeni] and [Makhathini] enjoyed a cordial relationship. Both [Magopeni] and the chairperson have been furnished with the report and the SABC board considers the matter closed.”


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