“Traitors, you are protecting the white man who started all of this … be warned.”
That was the SMS threat that was read out on Wednesday morning to the ad hoc committee tasked with investigating the SABC board.
This followed the testimony of four SABC journalists on Monday evening. Thandeka Gqubule, financial editor at the SABC, testified alongside Krivani Pillay, Lukhanyo Calata and Busi Ntuli on behalf of the so-called SABC 8.
The other members of the SABC 8 – Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Vuyo Mvoko and Jacques Steenkamp – did not attend the sitting.
Calata said they had collectively decided to appear before the committee without the other members because those members had been threatened. Consequently, they felt they didn’t want them to be exposed unnecessarily.
At the start of Wednesday morning’s sitting, Vincent Smith, committee chairperson, said he had learnt that there had been more threats made against the SABC 8.
“To me, it is an attack on Parliament when members of society are invited to give evidence before Parliament to assist Parliament with its oversight responsibilities, and then there are people out there who intimidate those who are helping to advance democracy – that is an attack on Parliament itself.”
He reiterated the committee’s earlier request that all witnesses be protected by the authorities.
“I urge those who are intimidating witnesses to stop.”
Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, United Democratic Movement MP, agreed that the threats constituted an attack on Parliament.
He said a journalist had sent him the threatening text message that he read out to the committee.
“We have to manage the situation and provide protection,” he said.
Doctor Makhosi Khoza, ANC MP, said: “Anyone who tries to intimidate our witnesses and people who are helping us move the country forward, are indeed leading an attack against the whole country.”
She said authorities should act immediately.
Phumzile van Damme, Democratic Alliance MP, said you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out where the threats were coming from.
“Can the police update us? How far are they with their investigation?”
By this afternoon, the committee had received a letter from the chief of staff of the SAPS urging all witnesses who had received death threats to lay a charge so they could act.