Cape Town – The portfolio committee on communications will meet with members of the SABC8 and the Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) after they wrote open letters to the committee, decrying the "recapture" of the public broadcaster.
The SABC8 – Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, Busisiwe Ntuli, Krivani Pillay, Foeta Krige, Lukhanyo Calata, Vuyo Mvoko, Jacques Steenkamp, Nonkululeko Zonke Smith – called on Parliament to hold the executive to account and Bemawu called on the committee to down tools until President Jacob Zuma appoints the SABC board. The 8th member of the SABC8, Suna Venter, passed on in June this year after being diagnosed with a cardiac condition known as stress cardiomyopathy or "Broken Heart Syndrome".
In Bemawu's letter, sent to the committee last week, it states that the past few years "was hell at the SABC". "Our public broadcaster became the private fiefdom of politics – again.
"Upstanding women and men, at the cost of their employment and livelihood, tried to protect the integrity and sacrosanctity of what belongs to us - more than to everyone else - as it feeds our children, pays for their education, allows us to breathe and live – our employer," the letter reads.
"Our brothers and sisters were hunted again. This time for the truth. The very human rights our fathers and mothers died for, were tortured, incarcerated and harassed for, reduced to nothing.
"Our colleagues were purged – for being honest, for having integrity, for saying no to corruption, for upholding corporate governance, for being good employees! "The SABC died! "It died while men and women were sitting in the green chairs of the people. "The majority of us kept quiet, we were scared. You kept quiet too, maybe you were scared too. "
Bemawu describes the situation at the SABC as "extremely abnormal".
"Is it not time for you first, to now fold your arms, withhold your labour and tell the president you will do nothing further until he confirms the appointment of the board, ensure the government guarantee is approved and employees at the SABC receive a salary increase?"
The SABC 8 said they affirmed the good work done by the portfolio committee, ad hoc committee and the interim board in 2016.
"However, it is with deep regret we write to you to register our alarm and deepest disappointment at the reckless abandon to which the public broadcaster has descended. We are extremely concerned at the governance crisis at the SABC," the letter reads.
"We believe that a recapture project of the public broadcaster is afoot and would like to endorse the open letter written to you by our fellow colleagues under the banner of Bemawu. We wish to reiterate their statement that we are prepared to strike over the issues underlined.
We will not allow our short-lived, recently gained freedom of expression to be rolled back.
"We wish to inform the executive arm of the state that we do not belong to them but to the people of South Africa via their public representatives – the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa.
"It has been eight months since the release of the final report of the SABC inquiry’s ad hoc committee which recommended, among others, that the enforcers of unlawful instructions by Hlaudi Motsoeneng and his regime be held accountable.
"Instead, there appear to be efforts to launder their conduct and reinstate them as credible journalists. This is just a cosmetic exercise designed to ensure that they remain long enough to cover up the corrupt excesses and decisions of the past."
"We call upon Parliament to hold the executive to account and bring the corporation in line with the governance principles outlined in the Broadcasting Act.
We cannot proceed in this fashion for much longer." ANC MP Lerumo Kalako said the SABC 8 should be "discouraged" from forming a clique.
His colleague Mondli Gungubele clarified that no-one is "prescribing association" and that they request the group of 8 to be part of resolving the challenges at the SABC.
The committee agreed to meet with representatives of Bemawu and the SABC 8 to engage on the matters they have raised.