SABC 8 must receive police protection - MPs

2016-11-15 17:19
Jacques Steenkamp (Facebook)

Jacques Steenkamp (Facebook)

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Cape Town - MPs in Parliament's ad hoc committee looking into the fitness of the SABC board were unanimous in expressing the need for the SABC 8 to receive police protection.

The ad hoc committee met for the first time on Tuesday to begin formalising its steps in the inquiry into the SABC board.

DA MP Phumzile van Damme raised the issue with chairperson Vincent Smith, who was elected at the beginning of the meeting.

She said reading reports that the eight journalists, dubbed the SABC 8, were being intimidated and threatened at their homes was distressing.

"I think they must definitely be provided security, and for the former board and staff members on the witness list," she told the ad hoc committee.

"We are dealing with people with mafia tendencies and we must make sure that witnesses are protected."

'They are on their own'

ANC MP Patrick Chauke said Parliament should engage with the SAPS as soon as possible, as the eight are all proposed witnesses in the inquiry.

"It's in our best interests that we do not only deal with them appearing before the committee but also outside the committee," Chauke said.

"We don't hear anybody saying anything [in their defence]. They are on their own."

EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi managed to take a dig at Parliament's own security officials, before agreeing with Chauke about the way forward.

"I nearly said we have found the perfect job for those bouncers in Parliament," he joked. "But the speaker will disagree.

"It's simply a matter for the SAPS's witness protection, they have that programme," he continued.

"The chairperson can engage through the office of the Speaker for us to request protection for any witnesses that request it. We also can't impose protection."

Findings in two months

Ndlozi said Parliament should want to give South Africa a sense of confidence and do something about the intimidation.

He also said for those witnesses who did not want to speak in front of cameras, the committee should ensure that their safety will not be compromised.

Smith said he didn't want to respond to knee-jerk reactions, but would take the matter forward to make sure that all witnesses were free to come and give evidence.

The SABC was heavily criticised in July when it fired journalists Suna Venter, Foeta Krige, Krivani Pillay, Thandeka Gqubule, Busisiwe Ntuli, Lukhanyo Calata, Vuyo Mvoko and Jacques Steenkamp for speaking out against the broadcaster's policy to not show footage of violent protests.

Subsequently, the eight journalists, who were rehired by the SABC in September following a lengthy Labour Court battle, filed papers at the Constitutional Court asking for the National Assembly to institute an inquiry into the various issues plaguing the broadcaster, including their dismissals.

The committee meanwhile will begin its hearing into the broadcaster on November 29. The hearing will continue for two weeks.

Thereafter MPs will deliberate in the hopes of finalising their findings before Parliament rises on January 9 in the new year.

Read more on:    parliament  |  sabc  |  sabc 8  |  media

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