SABC news head finally fired

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Magopeni was notified of her dismissal from the public broadcaster today, after having declined the invitation to formally send her mitigating arguments for her misconduct case. Photo: File
Magopeni was notified of her dismissal from the public broadcaster today, after having declined the invitation to formally send her mitigating arguments for her misconduct case. Photo: File

NEWS


SABC news editor in chief Phathiswa Magopeni’s dismissal letter, which had been “gathering dust” in CEO Madoda Mxakwe’s computer for a few months, has finally been sent to her.

Magopeni was notified of her dismissal from the public broadcaster today, after having declined the invitation to formally send her mitigating arguments for her misconduct case, which had been concluded in December.

Advocate Nazeer Cassim, who presided over her disciplinary hearing, recommended that Magopeni be given a written warning, but today the public broadcaster decided to terminate her contract.

After the conclusion of the case, the SABC requested her to send her mitigating factors by December 28.

READ: Demand for inquiry into SABC board chairperson and CEO to be opened to the public

But she requested submission extension dates on two occasions. Earlier today, Magopeni finally wrote to the SABC, indicating that she would not submit her mitigation argument. The SABC then reacted to her refusal by firing her with immediate effect.

The disciplinary letter, which was signed by Mxakwe, argued that the disciplinary inquiry presided over by an external chairperson Cassim on December 23 2021, was to deal with the issue of sanction.

The dismissal letter read in part: “He recommended that you be given a sanction of a warning but if you made common cause with the remarks as set out in the heads of argument submitted on your behalf, the SABC should, in its discretion and decision-making power, adopt a sanction which is consistent with that of a breakdown in the trust relationship between employer and employee. The letter read: 

In this regard, Advocate Cassim SC gave the parties sufficient guidelines/parameters to deal with the issue of sanction, without further resort to himself. Advocate Cassim SC, therefore, became functus officio.

Mxakwe said in the letter that, instead of taking up the opportunity to submit her mitigating factors and distance herself from the remarks she had made, she elected not to submit the mitigating factors.

“You have thus waived your right to do so. To remove any prejudice, the SABC provided aggravating factors for you to address and invited you to provide your mitigating factors. As recorded above, you waived your right to respond. There can thus be no legitimate complaint of prejudice.

“In the absence of your mitigating factors, the SABC finds that there is a breakdown in the trust relationship between you and the SABC, for reasons more comprehensively set out in the invitation to the employee to submit factors in mitigation, dated December 28 2021. You are hereby notified that your services are terminated with effect from January 28 2022,” Mxakwe said in the letter.

In her refusal to submit mitigating factors, Magopeni argued that the process adopted by the SABC in their invitation letter, together with the chairperson’s recommendation to the sanction was contrary to the provisions of the SABC’s disciplinary code and procedure.

“Given the incompetence of these proceedings, I am not legally obliged to provide any submissions in relation to mitigation, and my rights in this regard remain fully reserved. Moreover, the submissions set out in your letter in relation to the SABC’s factors in aggravation and your request that I provide my factors in mitigation are not permitted in terms of the code,” she said in the letter.

READ: SABC board chair on his way out

Magopeni further argued that, in terms of the code, no other person, except for the chairperson, may request and consider the parties’ mitigating and aggravating factors.

“But that function has been usurped by the SABC in terms of your letter. In essence, you cannot contravene the code and assume a responsibility which, in terms of the code, is not vested in you.

This responsibility is vested in the chairperson and, notably, he failed to exercise his responsibility in this regard,” she said.

She said she had been severely prejudiced in the disciplinary hearing process as, not only had she been denied the opportunity to provide her mitigating factors to the chairperson for his consideration in relation to sanction, but the SABC intended to consider its factors in aggravation for purposes of deciding on sanction.

She argued:

I wish to record that I take issue with the chairperson’s findings and will in due course challenge his findings at the appropriate time and forum.

City Press reported that Mxakwe and SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini had succumbed to political pressure from individuals who had wanted Magopeni to be fired.

Several ANC senior officials, including deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, spokesperson Pule Mabe and Fikile Mbalula were not happy with the SABC’s coverage of the ANC local government election campaign.

This led to a battle between Duarte and Magopeni at the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) Results Operation Centre in Pretoria, where the former accused the latter of de-campaigning the ANC.

Magopeni later filed a grievance with the IEC and the SABC.

In it, she accused both Makhathini and Mxakwe of abusing their powers and interfering with the SABC editorial policy by instructing her to do what the politicians wanted her to do.

She cited several incidents where she and other journalists were verbally abused by the politicians, while Mxakwe and Makhathini failed to defend the independence of the SABC.

SABC spokesperson Gugu Ntuli released a statement confirming her dismissal. “Consequently, Ms Magopeni’s services have been terminated with immediate effect and she has been informed accordingly.”


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