Veteran sports broadcaster's contract cancelled after racism allegation

2016-10-24 20:26
SABC office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

SABC office. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Trade union Solidarity on Monday served a summons on the SABC following the cancellation of the freelance contract of veteran sports commentator Pieter van den Berg, following allegedly racist comments he made to a technical controller.

The union's deputy general secretary Johan Kruger rubbished the claims, saying it would approach the High Court to fight his dismissal.

The alleged incident took place on May 7 at a Super Rugby match in Durban.

According to Kruger, the technical controller arrived late for work and was allegedly under the influence, effectively violating stadium rules.

He claimed the controller had had verbal altercations with other members of the media as well as stadium security.

Kruger said Van den Berg had not taken the matter further with his superiors, but was informed the next Monday that the controller had filed a complaint against him.

He apparently claimed that Van den Berg had said "blacks are incompetent".

The union dismissed the claim as "false allegations".

Evidence 'not even considered'

"False accusations of racism by employees in a bid to cover up their own wrongdoings have become the trend in South Africa. This action in itself offers grounds for dismissal. It is regrettable that the SABC chose to ignore the technical controller's behaviour while it should have investigated the matter properly," he said.

Evidence given by Van den Berg, including two polygraph tests, was not even considered, the union alleged, and following numerous meetings, no agreement could be reached, resulting in them approaching the courts.

"Van den Berg gave all the relevant information showing that he is not in the wrong," Kruger said.

The sports broadcaster, who has been on the air for the past 34 years, has been out of work since May.

In an email sent to the union in October by a "group employee relations consultant," the public broadcaster said the move was "properly made on the basis of the material that was before management at the time of decision making".

"We record that the SABC does not have a procedure to review and set aside the decision to terminate the independent contract agreement. Consequently, the SABC is unable to revive the independent contractor's agreement," the email reads.

SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago could not immediately be reached for comment.

Read more on:    sabc  |  racism

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