During his interview with SAFM’s Ashraf Garda on 28th March 2018, newly-appointed Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the SABC Chris Maroleng made some disturbing remarks. When asked whether he will keep the 90:10 ratio of local versus foreign music and content, which was introduced by the former COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, he said, "No, we will return to the previous position."
In a ludicrous attempt to substantiate his view, Maroleng made an example with Metro FM, where American artists dominate the airwaves, especially on Sundays. Well, if he was addressing a religious gathering, Maroleng was going to get congratulatory remarks and ululations. If there was no expectation from him, as COO, to be an agent of change, but rather to be an observer, he would receive standing ovations.
Unfortunately, Maroleng is tasked not only to observe society, but also to change society. His role is not only to look at, and fold arms, when our public broadcaster becomes a replica of the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) of the USA, but to change that too.
As a development communicator, Maroleng knows too well that the status quo, where the majority of Metro FM listeners enjoy, or are attached to, American music, rather than Chinese, Russian, Cuban or African music, is not accidental. It is rather, a product of years of colonisation (read Americanisation) which was entrenched by his predecessors at the then Suid-Afrikaanse Uitsaaikorporasie (SAUK).
I have to admit, rather, that the 90:10 policy itself was neither scientific, nor was it properly canvassed with stakeholders, including some local artists. Having said that, I am convinced that this policy was a step in the right direction. It was indeed a step towards decolonisation of the African mind.
It is embarrassing that South Africans, generally, see nothing wrong in promoting American music, clothing, movies and culture, more than they do their own. It is sad that our children grow in families where mental enslavement towards American culture is institutionalized, to an extent that some children wish they were born American, rather than South African.
With the likes of Chris Maroleng, this mental enslavement shall remain with us for many years to come. With the likes of Chris Maroleng in the leadership of our strategic media platforms, American artists and actors will continue to smile all the way to the banks, while our own die as beggars and paupers.
With reactionary and counter-revolutionary people like Maroleng at the echelons of power, the noble idea of Radical Economic Transformation shall remain a pipe dream. In order to develop the nation, socially and economically, we must at all material times encourage our people to support locally produced goods and services.
Chris Maroleng, as a strategic communicator, must know that his role is not of a junior nature. He is entrusted with the responsibility to make strategic decisions which will positively impact on our developmental agenda. In making decisions, Maroleng must look at cost and benefit analyses, as well as the opportunity costs of increasing local content versus the benefit of allowing America to dictate our content. He must use informed tools to arrive at strategic, rather than rented decisions.
His role is to reverse the decisions and agendas enforced by his SAUK predecessors, and replace such an agenda which aims for the decolonisation and de-Americanisation of the African child. The fact that he studied in America should propel him to ensure that we support local, as the Americans do, rather than become a mere branch of the USA.
Makhele is an African socialist and an ANC member in Mangaung, Free State. He writes in his personal capacity.