Gagging me is no bigger than muzzling free speech at SABC

The SABC in Auckland Park, Joburg.
The SABC in Auckland Park, Joburg.
Image: Waldo Swiegers

Last Thursday, the following email message was dispatched: "I write to confirm that me and my producer have acceded to changing the structure of the show as per your instructions. We have already dropped the 'open line' off the show clock with immediate effect, and similarly we will be stopping the use of Political Analyst Prince Mashele (as per your instruction.)"

This message was written by veteran SABC radio and TV presenter Sidney Baloyi for the attention of his boss, Munghana Lonene FM station manager Lawrence Ubisi.

Ubisi's appointment to the high position of station manager was announced in November 2016, at the height of Hlaudi Motsoeneng's madness.

Baloyi is the host of the popular Munghana Lonene talk show, Africa wa Vulavula (Afrika is talking). It is from this show that Ubisi instructed Baloyi to drop the 'open line' and "Political Analyst Prince Mashele," who had a politics feature every Thursday between 12h30 and 13h00.

When Motsoeneng was still in charge, journalists and political analysts with a critical mind were banned from the SABC. We all know whose political tune the clown Motsoeneng was singing: Jacob Zuma and his faction in the ANC.

So, why did Ubisi instruct Baloyi to drop the 'open line' and "Political Analyst Prince Mashele"? What did the 'open line' do to arouse Ubisi's ire? What about Mashele?

Ubisi phoned to tell Baloyi that the 'open line' must be dropped because "unpredictable" callers are embarrassing the ANC.

As for Mashele, he was not dropped, unlike the 'open line', because of "unpredictability". Ubisi told Baloyi that senior ANC people had called him privately to complain about Mashele.

In simple terms, Ubisi wants Munghana Lonene listeners to hear only from those who praise the ANC and please its senior leaders.

To be fair, Ubisi's CV, which is on the Munghana Lonene website, reflects the pedigree of a man with many years of community radio experience.

What the CV forgets to mention is that he once was a soldier. We all know that soldiers are trained to issue or carry out instructions.

Ubisi's CV reveals that he is a proud member of the ANC, "trained and incubated by radio freedom legends like Mr Thomas Seete, former GE PBS Radio at the SABC comrade Thami Nteteni". Ubisi says he also "worked with the then chairperson of the DBSA and ANC stalwarts [sic] Mr Marius Schoen".

What must we expect "comrade" station manager to do when he hears "unpredictable" callers embarrassing "ANC stalwarts" on an 'open line' hosted by a radio station under his comradely managerial authority?

Knowing that "comrade" station manager is one of their own, must we be surprised that "ANC stalwarts" called privately to complain about "Political Analyst Prince Mashele"? #Mashele must fall.

Poor Sidney Baloyi, he had to write to "comrade" station manager to let him know that "me and my producer . will be stopping the use of Political Analyst Prince Mashele (as per your instruction)". The voices of George Orwell in 1984 and Arthur Koestler in Darkness at Noon are indeed unmistakable.

This is not about Munghana Lonene's 'open line'. Nor is it about the fall of Mashele - who is he, anyway, not to fall?

What we seek to highlight is the depth of rot at the SABC. In other words, what you consume is what "ANC stalwarts" and "comrades" want you to hear.

Most of us celebrated when Chris Maroleng was announced as the SABC's new COO. We thought this marked the end of Hlaudi Motsoeneng's reign of madness.

Motsoeneng may be gone, but his idiotic soldiers are still there. What can South Africans do to drain such rot out? We will see what the "new" SABC leadership will do about "comrade" Ubisi.

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