12 February 2018:
SABC NEWS STAFF PETITION
This petition serves to register our deep concern and infuriation with current developments in the News Division. This is despite the achievements of the Ad-Hoc committee’s inquiry into the SABC in 2016. This petition appeals to the board to urgently meet staff and address the following concerns;
A year since Parliament’s Ad-Hoc Committee issued its significant and binding recommendations for change at the SABC:
- We are yet to see the end of impunity where those who were responsible for violating our editorial standing in society through their unlawful conduct and enforcement of political instructions, are held to account.
- The SABC’s newsroom is still being led by enforcers, some of whom continue to disregard the changed editorial environment that calls for conscience and professionalism such as Ms Sophie Mokoena’s unethical instruction to staff not to ask any question on President Zuma’s recall in a recent ANC press conference.
- Political interference continues, the latest known having been reported to the board recently without response or action against the implicated party. Instead, those who sought to report it are portrayed as liars.
- We demand the immediate removal of the current compromised presidential corps team and the institution of an editorially independent team that represents the interest of the SABC as the voice of society, and not embed itself with the presidency.
- Other than James Aguma and Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the SABC continues to employ disgraced and discredited executives who propped up the previous regime. These people, such as Theresa Geldenhuys, who has been promoted to Head of Governance and Compliance, were found liable for serious transgressions by the ad hoc committee.
- Management and the board promised to deal with the issue of enforcers speedily a year ago, however to date, they are yet to act. [Following a motion of no confidence against the said enforcers, management and the board pleaded for patience as they were dealing with the matter, but nothing has come of it].
- We are told that they will also be investigated by the SIU, but it boggles the mind how the SIU that investigates criminal behaviour can also make a finding on editorial issues.
- There is a re-emergence of reprisals against those who stood for the truth and for an independent public broadcaster. Victimisation of staff who stand for professional ethics continues. Here we cite the cases of David Magae, Boitumelo Korogo, Elvis Presslin, Mandisa Mazwi, Thandeka Gqubule, Phuthego Mojapele among others.
SABC’s EDITORIAL INTEGRITY
More than once, the SABC has been compromised editorially and our credibility and integrity will continue to be questioned. Our presidential correspondent compromise us editorially by sheepishly failing to call the executive to account, despite this, no one has been held responsible.
- We demand that the political editor and news management be held accountable for making decisions that compromise us editorially
- We demand an investigation into why the SABC failed to cover the address of the newly-elected ANC president at Nasrec, despite us having the staff and equipment at the venue.
Mismanagement of the newsroom
- For the past six months, our news division has fallen prey to unprofessionalism mainly due to poor leadership and management by the Acting Head of News and Current Affairs, Kenneth Makatees.
- Mr Makatees style of management and leadership has been reminiscent of the Hlaudi-style of management. He has imposed his preferred guests on Media Monitor staff, insisting on his involvement in the invitation of guests to Question Time, and micro-managing the newsroom and thus undermining his managers.
- We hear that he has now been moved to channel 404, we demand a proper advertising of the post and his removal form the Johannesburg newsroom as his presence is bound to distabilise the newsroom and hamper progress.
- Management must bear in mind that he was previously removed through a petition from the erstwhile SABC Africa.
We demand the immediate removal of Acting head of the news channel, Tebogo Alexander for:
- Undermining of EP’s
- Threatening reprisals on his subordinates instead of resolving newsroom issues professionally
- Intimidation of contractors with dismissals
- Bullying of his colleagues
- Absolutely no professional mannerism or leadership skills
His behaviour disregards the rights and dignity of employees as outlined in the Constitution of South Africa and the LRA. We call for an investigation into his behaviour and his track record as a manager at the SABC where there is a pattern of reported harassment of staff and abuse of power and position against his subordinates.
Cancellation of Programmes on Channel 404:
In a display of the lack of management skills from the top of the News Division for five years, there has been no performance agreements or an understanding of what the shows aim to achieve. However teams have worked diligently to produce and broadcast these programmes. Suddenly and without professional and scientific rationale as well as consultation, programmes are being unilaterally pulled off air.
Affected staff has been told to ‘slot’ themselves into other shows. These are important decisions which must be done according to administrative procedure i.e. in a consultative thus professional manner.
We demand that no show be taken off air until the newly appointed GE can make her own decisions based on rationale and factual basis, informed by a news strategy, which has been consulted with the news staff. The SABC newsroom must be protected from personal vendettas and whims by some in management.
While we believe that management is within its right to decide on programme changes, but they need to be done in professional consultation with fellow managers and supported by rational reasons if they are to be cancelled.
The following programmes at issue are also the only audience interactive programmes on Channel 404;
Rights and Recourse – Following a meeting with Acting-GE: News Kenneth Makatees, staff was told that Rights and Recourse will be removed from Channel 404 schedule as from March 31 2018. However, on Friday the 23rd of February 2018, the team was told that their last show would be broadcast on Sunday the 25th of February without a further clarity.
Question Time – In the six months that Kenneth Makatees has been Acting as GE: News, he neglected to meet the Executive Producer about the programme’s performance. The Executive Producer had to hear from colleagues in the corridor about its cancellation before he was officially told by his line manager. The market intelligence figures show that this programme is the highest performing on the platform, therefore the decision to cut it is surprising. However, it is worth noting that this programme has annoyed news management in the past with its editorial independence and refusal to accept illegal instructions.
National Government events versus ANC party events:
Radio Current Affairs programmes were told that they will not travel to Parliament during SONA citing financial reasons. We would accept this if all events were treated equally. However, there is a precedent set where we over deploy to ANC events but have financial constraints when we have public events like SONA and BUDGET. We broadcast for the country and not the party. Eighty people were deployed to East London during the ANC’s January 8th statement. However, when it came to the crunch time of the broadcast – the team in Johannesburg had to take over; despite an over deployment.
We call for an investigation into this misuse of SABC funds at a time when we are on economic austerity. Similar incidences such as the Cuba trip (to cover the death if former Cuban leader Fidel Castro) must be investigated.
- We wish to register concern about potential compromise of the process of appointing a Regional Editor in Kwa-Zulu Natal. We are aware of the fact that the process had to be halted because one of the interviewing panel members was conflicted and had not declared this. We call for a transparent recruitment process, free of undue influence where the best candidate must be appointed.
- We also call for an investigation into Senior news management appointments, both in the national office as well as the regions.
- SABC’s recruitment policy has been ignored in the appointment of a Provincial Editor in Limpopo. The appointment whose interviews, if any, were done secretively was made despite an on-going grievance procedure with the Acting/GCEO
- We demand an investigation into alleged sex for jobs at the Mpumalanga office and everywhere else where such allegations have been made.
Staff Vetting for National Keypoint
We demand a halt to the vetting process which violates our constitutional right to privacy and dignity. The SABC as a National Keypoint is a matter that needs further deliberation and until such time, we will not allow our rights to be violated in this manner.
We request an investigation into the irregular and inconsistent decisions to renew some contracts for the News technical team, and decline to do so for others where reasons provided defy logic.
We also demand the speedy appointment of a permanent head of the TV News Resources department which continues to be run unprofessionally without any sense of accountability by those who act in that position.
There are cases that remain unresolved for many years, despite the knowledge of News HR. We demand responsive HR department that is willing and able to resolve issues of workers without any bias.
Following a number of concerning pronouncements about the expected role of the newly appointed COO, we wish to remind management that in terms of the 2004 editorial policy which is currently in force, the editor in chief of the SABC is the CEO and not the COO. The News department is headed by the GE News who reports to the CEO. We therefore demand clarity on the role and responsibility of the COO in light of the fact that the matter regarding the decision to cut programmes has been referred to the COO.
We urgently request a meeting between the board and staff to discuss the issues raised above.
The undersigned (signatures on attachment)
(SIGNED BY AT LEAST 116 KEY NEWS STAFF, WHICH INCLUDE EDITORS, PRODUCERS AND TECHNICAL STAFF)