The SABC has shelved a new investigative documentary critical of the ANC government and compiled by veteran former SABC reporter Sylvia Vollenhoven, as it is deemed “too sophisticated for an SABC2 audience”.
The cover story of the February issue of the South African investigative magazine Noseweek, details the South African public broadcaster’s refusal to broadcast a documentary film, Project Spear, which the SABC commissioned itself, but which is critical of the ruling ANC government.
Project Spear was produced by Vollenhoven, a respected TV reporter and filmmaker and a former television face of SABC news and current affairs.
The documentary is feature-length, detailing the story of an ex-MI6 spy who presented the South African government with a plan – dubbed Project Spear – to recover billions of rands misappropriated by apartheid-era bankers, officials and politicians from the country’s coffers.
According to the documentary, the ANC government allegedly refused to take any action despite being given a strategic plan to recover the stolen billions.
As the Noseweek article reports, Vollenhoven got the go-ahead and the money from the SABC to produce Project Spear for a new documentary strand titled Truth Be Told on SABC2.
In the article, Vollenhoven explains that the SABC approved the script for the documentary in April 2012.
She also reveals that by September 2012, the SABC had soured on the idea of the documentary.
After the broadcaster was couriered a final edit of Project Spear, the SABC’s acting head of factual commissioning told her in an email that the film was “too sophisticated for an SABC2 audience”.
In the email, the SABC allegedly also wrote the following: “The government is not going to take kindly to being asked, why are we walking away from recovering so much money?”
Vollenhoven also goes into detail about the whole process – how it happened from her side, her thoughts on how the SABC has changed, how the Project Spear documentary, which the SABC initially wanted, got sidelined and how she is now battling to get it shown on television, especially since the SABC had already paid for it as a public broadcaster.
Vollenhoven also believes that the SABC “has a responsibility to show this to the people”.
Currently, Vollenhoven is also looking at trying to buy back the rights to the documentary, to possibly take it to other TV platforms such as e.tv or DStv.
The SABC was asked yesterday if the public broadcaster has any comment, statement, or explanation on Noseweek’s new cover story, but they have not responded to any media enquiries regarding the matter.