Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Anti-education Btv mentor ran SABC like own tuckshop

With the South African parliament having conducted public hearings on the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), it has emerged that its former chief operating officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng, dispensed with all corporate governance protocols in his stewardship of the public broadcaster. At a parliamentary ad hoc committee inquiry set up to investigate SABC, a parade of witnesses told horror stories of how Motsoeneng ruled with an iron fist. When one journalist sought to be assertive, telling him about the sanctity of editorial independence in the Fourth Estate, the latter is supposed to have shot back: “No journalist is independent. The COO has final responsibility of news…you cannot have people who question management.” Professor Bongani Khumalo, a former SABC board member, told the parliamentary committee that Motsoeneng had “no tolerance for governance” and thought he could “manipulate” anyone to agree with him. Vuyo Mvoko, who is SABC’s contributing editor and specialist anchor, testified that Motsoeneng expected staff members to stand up when he walked into an office. He also recounted an incident that happened when he was interviewing President Jacob Zuma and Motsoeneng sat in on the interview.  “While I was still talking to the president, the door opens and it was [then acting chief executive] Mr. Phil Molefe. The way Mr. Motsoeneng chased Mr. Molefe out of the room … he was chased away like a dog,” Mvoko told the parliamentary committee. Another former board member, Krish Naidoo, wondered how “a high school drop-out” could wield as much power as the former COO did. Motsoeneng, who misrepresented his BGCSE-equivalent qualifications, doesn’t think too much of education and has been quoted as saying the following: “Research takes long. It takes three years to research and two years to implement it… too much education is dangerous. It’s like overdosing on your medicine. […] I said to a professor, you always quote people and books saying ‘so and so said this. When are you going to be quoted yourself?’ He could not answer many of my questions and in the end I knew I should be his mentor.” Mentor is what Motsoeneng briefly was to staff at our very own Mass Media Complex – which is commonly known as Btv because the station was the first to move there. The South African is a personal friend of a controversial senior civil servant who, until not long ago, worked at the Mass Media Complex. With the knowledge of very few, Motsoeneng has made a private cross-border visit during which he was given a platform to indoctrinate Btv and Radio Botswana staff. Back home, he introduced a policy that requires 90 percent of the music played on all 18 SABC radio stations to be locally produced. Hardly a month later, Mass Media Complex sources say that his Motswana friend encouraged them to adopt the same policy, ratio included. During the private visit he made to Gaborone, Motsoeneng is said to have addressed some Mass Media Complex staff members, reiterating controversial policies that he is implementing back home. His conception of a government-funded broadcaster is that it should provide the audience with “happy news” devoid of content that portrays the government in bad light. As SABC COO, he decreed that SABC television should not cover violent protests. In his address at the Mass Media Complex, Motsoeneng is reported to have stated that all journalism has an agenda and that that of state-funded ones is to support the government of the day at all costs. Back home, he has said the same thing. While he may not have used the same language, Motsoeneng’s friend has also identified too closely with the ruling party and has repeatedly used his position to advance its agenda. His zeal reached unprecedented levels when he literally served as a mouthpiece of the ruling party’s leader by reading a political statement on his behalf. With his friend at Mass Media Complex having been redeployed and the Democratic Alliance hounding him out of SABC, Motsoeneng will never get another chance to mentor Botswana government journalists. However, there remains the questions of whether anyone  at Mass Media Complex took his message to heart.

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