Communication Workers Union rallies behind SABC's Motsoeneng

Durban - SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng has improved conditions for workers at the broadcaster, the Communication Workers Union (CWU) in KwaZulu-Natal said on Wednesday.

There was no crisis at the SABC, CWU provincial secretary Thami Mzileni told reporters in Durban.

"This is reflected in the better conditions we have seen for our members. The conditions were not achieved by the so-called learned people who have been in charge of the SABC before."

Mzileni was speaking at a briefing by union and the African National Congress Youth League at the ANC's provincial offices.

The ANCYL announced at the last minute that it had received an instruction from party headquarters, Luthuli House, not to speak about matters plaguing the state broadcaster. Its officials left the briefing.

Mzileni said none of the SABC's suspended journalists were CWU members.

"What we find alarming is that the workers, instead of approaching the trade unions, approached political parties for assistance - and that is odd."

Not censorship

READ: A summary of Icasa's SABC ruling

The union said it was against any form of censorship and would fight for freedom of the press and freedom of speech.

Motsoeneng's decision to no longer broadcast images of the destruction of property during protests could, however, not be reduced to censorship. It was the prerogative of all editors to edit the news, he said.

Mzileni said that calling it censorship was "cheap politicking".

The union said it had in the past openly criticised Motsoeneng over decisions with which it did not agree.

His decision that all 18 SABC radio stations should play 90% local music was described as a milestone.

"We find it strange that he has now become a target of everyone who wants to get airtime on media. If, indeed, he possesses such powers as it's alleged, where is the executive and the board?"

SABC to challenge Icasa ruling

The union was expected to picket outside the SABC's provincial offices in Durban on Thursday.

The Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ruled on Monday that the SABC must withdraw its decision to no longer show footage of the destruction of property. It was given seven days to comply.

Motsoeneng said he and his management would challenge the decision in court.

"No one is going to tell us what to do," he said on Monday.

Icasa spokesperson Paseka Maleka said on Tuesday that they would wait until the SABC had submitted its written reply before commenting.

ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe warned the SABC not to ignore Icasa's ruling.

"If you defy the decision of [a Chapter 9] institution, you will learn hard," he said on Tuesday.

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