Hlaudi here to stay

2016-06-15 06:00

THE headline-grabbing chief operating officer (COO) of the SABC can be read by different audiences in different ways.

This is why he is insulated from accountability.

After years of turbulence, the rambunctious COO of the SABC, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, has brought a sense of direction and stability to the public broadcaster.

Ever since the mid-1990s, the SABC has wilted, as the governing party has lacked direction on what it wants for the Auckland Park media giant.

Was it to be a Western-styled public broadcaster or a classic, developing world state broadcaster to bolster not only government, but the governing party too?

The laws are clear. The SABC statutes are written in public broadcasting best practice, where an independent board is mandated to oversee the organisation and to keep it insulated from political interference and influence.

Policies on local content, political coverage and practice are contained in its articles of association.

But Motsoeneng has upended that plan and provided a clear direction. The SABC is a state broadcaster to bolster the country’s development trajectory and to downplay South Africa’s penchant for protest.

In May, Motsoeneng decided that the SABC would no longer cover protests, largely on television, a move pilloried by the intelligentsia, but welcomed by many ordinary citizens.

In addition, Motsoeneng has won significant creative industry kudos with his edicts that local content on radio and television be immediately lifted to 90% and 65% respectively.

The SABC stands mast and aerial above any other medium as the most watched and listened to broadcast platform, so its support for local music and content is unsurpassed.

And, while the punditry may pillory the red-eyed COO, Motsoeneng is a figure of chutzpah and aspiration. Without matric, he has risen to the top of the broadcaster, earns as much as President Jacob Zuma and ignores court judgements as well as findings by public protector Thuli Madonsela.

With a history in struggle, South Africa is a country that likes a bandit who thumbs his nose at authority. In Motsoe­neng, this part of our DNA has an unlikely hero.

He is going nowhere.

– Ferial Haffajee in City Press

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