I found the SABC in a state of decay - head of news tells state capture commission

SABC head of news Phathiswa Magopeni. (Netwerk24)
SABC head of news Phathiswa Magopeni. (Netwerk24)

The South African Broadcasting Corporation's (SABC) head of news Phathiswa Magopeni told the state capture commission of inquiry that the organisation was in a state of decay when she arrived there.

Testifying before commission chairperson Deputy Chief Justice Raymond Zondo on Tuesday afternoon, Magopeni said the organisation was on autopilot even though there were managers there.

"Getting into that environment, I found decay," she said.

Magopeni took up her position at the SABC in March 2018. 

She replaced disgraced former head of news Simon Tebele, who was found liable for part of the legal costs in a matter relating to the wrongful dismissal of the SABC 8, together with the SABC and its former controversial chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng. 

The SABC 8 was the term given to eight journalists who were fired in July 2016 for criticising Motsoeneng's policy on footage of violent protests, News24 previously reported.

During her testimony on Tuesday, Magopeni said the leadership that existed at the organisation did not assist it with what it was supposed to do.

Magopeni also claimed that there were external parties who would contact producers in the control room and instruct them to not put certain stories on air.

"The fact that you had people who were supposed to be leading the newsroom who were not trusted by journalists within the newsroom; those people had no legitimacy and they did not command any authority to be respected by journalists within the newsroom because they were associated with a period where things happened that were not supposed to be happening in the newsroom."

She also told the commission that the leadership at the SABC lacked ownership.  

Earlier, the commission heard testimony from SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe, who testified that the public broadcaster was technically insolvent.  

"We run an organisation, chairperson, where every single month employees are very depressed [and] they do not know whether they will be able to get their salaries or not," he said. 

"The only thing we focus on every month is the R265m that is dedicated to paying salaries. Once we have done that, we actually have absolutely nothing left and then we have to get into engagements with some of our creditors." 

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