SABC news head's exit welcomed

2009-04-29 19:19

Johannesburg - Opposition parties on Wednesday welcomed the exit of controversial SABC news and current affairs head Snuki Zikalala, but said he was only part of the broadcaster's problem.

United Democratic Movement leader Bantu Holomisa said Zikalala was only a symptom of the real problem at the SABC.

"For instance, we were all told that SABC did not have the funding to provide live broadcast coverage for any election closing rallies.

"This position is understandable, since we are aware that the SABC is in a grave financial state.

"However, at the last minute the ANC insisted on coverage for their closing rally... the ANC was given this hugely beneficial opportunity just before election day."

Holomisa said Zikalala's replacement would be expected to "march to the tune of the ruling party". The Democratic Alliance said Zikalala's departure was "the right thing to do".

Zikalala deserves credit

"The DA believes the SABC Board's decision not to renew Dr Snuki Zikalala's contract is, to use its own marketing language, the right thing to do," said communications spokesperson Dene Smuts.

She said Zikalala deserved credit for ensuring opposition parties received fair coverage during the election period, but he had become synonymous with the inhibition of journalistic freedom.

"It is therefore a good idea to call it a day," Smuts said.

The SABC announced on Tuesday that Zikalala would leave at the end of the month.

Board chair Kanyi Mkhonza said Zikalala had "surfed through difficult water". She said the board wanted someone with "fresh ideas".

Journalist Phil Molefe would take over from Zikalala in an acting capacity from May 1, while a replacement was sought.

Zikalala has been embroiled in controversy during his term, including reports that he blacklisted political commentators critical of the government, led at the time by Thabo Mbeki.

There were also reports of confidential SABC information being leaked to newspapers, and allegations Zikalala had undermined axed CEO Dali Mpofu.

The Young Communist League said on Wednesday that those who had suffered the wrath of the SABC under Snuki Zikalala could now "pop their champagne".

'No political interference'

"We welcome Zikalala's long overdue departure within the context of eliminating abuse of the SABC news division for narrow and factional battles," YCL spokesperson Castro Ngobese said.

Work still needed to be done for total transformation of the SABC, he said.

Earlier, ANC treasurer-general Mathews Phosa said the party had played no role in the decision to end Zikalala's contract.

"It does not need any political interference and I think the further we stand from those decisions as politicians, the better," Phosa told SABC radio, adding it was a "management decision".

"There've been complaints from political parties, for a long time there's been complaints, and South Africans know... A management decision was taken and we should respect the management decision," he said.