Radio Botswana and Botswana Television (Btv) Chief Broadcasting Officer, Sakaeyo Jannie, has revealed how Presidential Affairs Minister, Lesego Motsumi, and the former Director of Information and Broadcasting, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, violated the public broadcasters editorial independence and the National Broadcasting Board Licence conditions in a bid to impose a news blackout on the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which broke away from the ruling Botswana Democratic Party last year.
Jannie is opposing his redeployment from the Department of Broadcasting Services, suggesting that he was being victimized for resisting the politicization of the national broadcaster.
In his answering affidavit, Jannie claims that, “Kaboeamodimo has allowed politics to cloud his judgment on editorial issues.”
Explaining his decision to resist moves to turn Radio Botswana and Btv into BDP mouthpieces, Jannie stated that, “As a journalist and broadcaster, I have throughout my career been sensitive to the fact that both Radio Botswana and Botswana Television are public broadcasters and must therefore be perceived to be politically neutral and ethical as per the National Broadcasting Board licence.”
Jannie further states in his affidavit: “Kaboeamodimo has personally instructed me not to extend coverage to political parties. This was after the Botswana Movement for Democracy (“BMD” a breakaway faction of the BDP) rally held in Mochudi was covered in the news, sometime in September 2010. I apologized profusely to him for this, because I did not mean to upset or disappoint him. Whilst still working at Radio Botswana, Kaboeamodimo hauled me before honourable Minister of Presidential Affairs Lesego Motsumi, for extending an interview on Radio Botswana to advocate Sydney Pilane, who is an interim spokesperson of the BMD. I apologized to the honourable minister and to Mr. Kaboeamodimo for the interview.”
Jannie and Kaboeamodimo also disagreed over the coverage of MPs Patrick Masimolole and Phillip Makgalemele when they rejoined the BDP after defecting to the BMD.
States Jannie, “When honourable Masimolole and Makgalemele resigned from the BDP to join the BMD we deliberately did not cover it , to avoid being entangled in inter-political party politics, but when they rejoined the BDP, Kaboeamodimo said we should cover the fact that they have gone back to the BDP. I questioned the journalistic ethics of doing so, because we were silent when they defected. I was therefore raising the reasonableness of the instruction. Nonetheless it was covered as per his instructions, even though I believed it was a breach of broadcasting ethics.”
Jannie was replying an affidavit by Kaboeamodimo who had stated that since being appointed Chief Broadcasting Officer, Jannie “has periodically and with increasing frequency discharged his duties in a manner that deliberately undermines my authority and effectively has elevated himself to a level where he believes that we rank as equals and alarmingly view me not to be his superior, but as a mere colleague who he can freely overrule and undermine in front of officers who are junior to him”.
Kaboeamodimo stated that Jannie has a tendency to pick and choose which lawful instructions he will execute and which ones he will disregard and substitute with his own.
“Whenever a lawful instruction is issued to him, one in effect is engaged in a game of chances as one is never sure if he will carry the instruction out or instead choose to ignore it and substitute it with his own instruction. He in effect has advised me that he is a professional and will choose for himself on the basis of his professionalism which instructions he will carry out and those that he feels are not appropriate or do not make sense to him, he will not carry out. The trust and confidence that we had in each other have been eroded to such an extent that our working relationship has irretrievably broken down and what remains is mutual mistrust and reluctance to work hand in hand,” stated Kaboeamodimo in his affidavit.
Last year, Btv members complained against Kaboeamodimo and Gloria Kgosi, alleging favoritism, maladministration and unprofessional conduct, among others.
The fight between Kaboeamodimo and his subordinates escalated after Vusa Ziga and Sakaeyo Jannie, who are linked to the complaint against Kaboeamodimo, dragged their employer to court following their redeployment. The Industrial Court has reinstated the duo pending the final outcome of their case.
Mediation efforts by the Department of Labour have collapsed and the issue has now been referred to the Industrial Court.
Kaboeamodimo on the other hand has been promoted to deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.