Molefe ‘will not take golden handshake’

2012-04-14 16:23

SABC head of news and current ­affairs, Phil Molefe, is determined not to walk away from the public broadcaster with a golden handshake.

An emergency board sub­committee meeting will be held tomorrow to investigate his effective suspension and Molefe may well be reinstated.

He was placed on special leave for the second time this week after refusing to hand over editorial powers to the broadcaster’s group chief executive Lulama Mokhobo.

Three highly-placed insiders, speaking on condition of anonymity, spoke of the dispute between Molefe and Mokhobo concerning what the former’s news team were covering for their national bulletins.

Molefe was appointed by the board and any action against him must be taken under board mandate.

It was reported this week that Mokhobo was concerned Molefe was allowing suspended ANC Youth League president Julius Malema too much airtime.

“Mokhobo wanted to run operations in the newsroom,” said one insider.

Molefe is believed to have told Mokhobo that he was only ­prepared to update her on his news operations from time to time. Had Molefe agreed to Mokhobo’s orders, this would have meant the chief executive “decided who gets to be profiled”.

However, the SABC, through its spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago, insists that Molefe was placed on special leave due to “issues of ­conduct”.

All Molefe would say was that he did not back any political faction or any party across the political spectrum. “As a professional, my role is to ensure that all sides of a story are reflected in news output.”

Although Mokhobo is editor-in-chief of news by virtue of her position, the SABC’s editorial policies state her role “should not be confused with the functions of the heads of radio, television news”.

“The GCEO’s (group chief ­executive officer) role is not to make day-to-day programming or newsroom decisions,” reads the policy document.

Molefe, insiders say, will refuse a settlement even if the broadcaster makes him an offer. “There will be no settlement, he will return.”

The SABC has in the past paid out a number of executives to leave the organisation. These include:

» Former GCEO Dali Mpofu ­received R14.1 million;
» Former GCEO Solly Mokoetle received R3.4 million;
» Former company secretary Thelma Melk got R3.2 million;
» Former advertising and marketing head Martin Evans received R2.5 million; and
» Former chief people officer Phumelele Ntombela-Nzimande took home R1.8 million.

After his tenure at the SABC, Mokoetle went on to be appointed by Communications Minister Dina Pule to the position of special technical manager in her ministry.

The problem for the SABC is that Molefe is overseeing the launch of its 24-hour news channel. This was the reason his bosses asked him to return earlier this year, after about a month on the sidelines.

He had been acting as group chief executive, and was placed on special leave for the first time, soon after Mokhobo landed the top job. Said one of the insiders: “He will return to the public broadcaster because it needs him for the (24-hour news channel) launch.”

Molefe’s rise to the position of SABC’s top journalist has not been smooth. In May 2010, chairperson of the board Dr Ben Ngubane ­unilaterally appointed him as news and current affairs head leading to yet another power struggle within the board.

He replaced the controversial Snuki Zikalala in June 2009 and the SABC board confirmed his ­appointment a year later despite noting that “news audience have been in steep decline both under Zikalala and Molefe”.

Molefe beat 16 other applicants to the position.

He earns a yearly salary of just under R2 million and is a former head of the international affairs desk as well as SABC Africa.

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