Any journalist from the SABC can interview the North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo – just not those from the public broadcaster’s newsroom in his own province.
Mahumapelo’s office will also not respond to any media inquiries from the SABC regional newsroom, which is situated just across the street from his office in Mahikeng.
The premier’s office said this “drastic” decision was taken in the light of a City Press story in which it was alleged that Mahumapelo had “captured” the local SABC newsroom.
The allegations were part of the story in which the SABC North West regional general manager Dan Mongale was accused of abusing his position by allocating more airtime for Mahumapelo at the expense of fair and balanced reporting.
It was alleged in the same article that two former journalists at the SABC in Mahikeng told City Press that they had on at least one occasion received a call from Mahumapelo in which he was trying to influence stories – giving directives on how news stories about him should be reported on television or radio. This was strongly denied by his office, which said that only communications people had contact with reporters.
All allegations were put to the premier’s office, which dismissed them as “unfortunate, misleading and devoid of the truth”.
The same was reiterated in a statement released on Tuesday but, this time, it was announced that Mahumapelo’s office had decided to sever ties with the SABC in the region.
His spokesperson, Brian Setswambung, said the premier’s office would cease to “engage the SABC in the North West until an investigation into these allegations has been finalised”.
Setswambung said this “temporary suspension of relations with the SABC in the province” meant that their office and the premier would grant no interviews to the SABC in the province but would if he was to be interviewed by employees of the public broadcaster from a different province.
This meant that the premier would not honour invitation to be a guest on Motsweding FM’s current affairs programmes, which he had allegedly frequented, but could be heard on any other SABC radio stations.
He said a request was sent to the SABC to probe all allegations in the City Press story.
“The decision to suspend the relations is to curb other encroachment accusations against the premier on the corporation’s editorial policy, while the investigation is being carried out,” Setswambung said.
However, this will not affect other provincial government departments, he said, meaning MECs and other officials could continue using SABC North West regional platforms while the premier would be playing far away.