A collective fever, marked by flu-like symptoms ranging from clammy palms to night sweats and a permanent low-level nausea, seems to have settled over the government Mass Media Complex. The outbreak of trauma shows no sign of dissipating unless clinical psychologists are brought in to help Botswana Television (Btv) journalists heal.
The shared agony is on vivid display in a letter signed by 19 Btv reporters, addressed to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs. The reporters are requesting, among other things, “clinical counselors or psychologists to begin the process of healing after due action is taken.”
By due action, the reporters are referring to their proposal for disciplinary proceedings against former Director of Broadcasting Services, Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo, and Btv Editor Gloria Kgosi whom they claim have demoralized, frustrated and stressed us by insults and abuses.”
With the reporters harping on the disciplinary action theme throughout the letter, which has been deposed before the industrial court, it is hardly surprising that Kaboeamodimo comes across as paranoid.
In an affidavit that is before the Industrial Court, Btv Chief Broadcasting Engineer, Vusa Ziga, explains that Kaboeamodimo claimed that he had gossiped against him.
“He further informed me that he has an intelligence network that informs him of things that are being said about him.”
Btv has been plunged into anguish, anger, fear and loathing. Ostensibly, life goes on as usual. Everyday affairs are conducted with the characteristic Btv mixture of obedience and edginess.
Affidavits by Chief Broadcasting Engineer Vusa Ziga, Head of News Sakaeyo Jannie and Director Mogomotsi Kaboeamodimo provide a fascinating insight into a television station where everyone has slipped into the psychological stance of a victim.
Kaboeamodimo says 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 views me not as his superior, but as a mere colleague who he can freely over rule and undermine in front of officers who are junior to him. His continued behavior has increasingly and alarmingly negatively affected my ability to effectively and efficiently head the DBS.”
Again and again Kaboeamodimo’s choice of words in the affidavit reveals his lack of trust and confidence in both Ziga and Jannie.
“As a result of his continued behavior and in an effort to ensure that there is effective and efficient delivery in the DBS, I became desperate to part ways with him as a matter of urgency. I approached the authorities and impressed upon them of the urgency of the situation at the DBS and desperate need to restore order. The only attractive alternative was to have him removed from the DBS.”
The fight between Kaboeamodimo and his subordinates escalated after Ziga and Jannie dragged government to court following their redeployment. The Industrial court has redeployed the duo following the final outcome of the case. Jannie maintains that, “the desire to transfer me has nothing to do with ensuring effective and efficient delivery in the department. The decision is brought about by an obsession with the need to vest Kgosi with authority which she cannot lawfully exercise and his unwavering love for her friend Kgosi.”
Jannie further states that Kaboeamodimo’s friendship with Kgosi has clouded his judgment.
“I am not the only one in the department, who believes that Kaboeamodimo’s friendship with Kgosi has brought about a situation where Kgosi is continuously exercising powers over her colleagues beyond her remit. There is a general feeling among most members of my department that she has as a result of her friendship with Kaboeamodimo become the defacto director of the department.”
Kaboeamodimo has, however, been promoted to Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Presidential Affairs.
Kaboeamodimo’s promotion has provided fodder for conspiracy theorists, and there are many at the government Mass Media Complex: that he is being rewarded for delivering Btv to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party. The perception is not helped by claims in Jannie’s affidavit on how the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Lesego Motsumi, and Kaboeamodimo tried to impose a Btv news blackout on the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which broke away from the BDP last year.
Jannie states that, “apart from the limits of authority of Ms. Kgosi, the only other difference of opinion I have had in the workplace with Kaboeamodimo is on the apolitical role of Botswana Television and Radio Botswana as national broadcasters and on editorial judgments.
“Kaboeamodimo has allowed politics to cloud his judgment on editorial issues. 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 as politically neutral and ethical as per the National Broadcasting Board Licence.
“Kaboeamodimo has personally instructed me not to extend coverage to opposition political parties. This was after the Botswana Movement for Democracy’s (BMD a breakaway faction of the BDP) rally held in Mochudi was covered in the news sometime in September 2010.”
The disturbing trend at Btv is that reporters seem to be getting used to be coming to terms with the fact that opposition parties are a four letter word. They are getting used to apologizing whenever a story about opposition parties slips past the editor’s spike.
Jannie says he “apologized profusely” to Kaboeamodimo for covering the BMD rally in Mochudi, “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 the interim spokesperson of the BMD. I apologized to the Honourable Minister and to Mr. Kaboeamodimo for the interview. Apart from these incidents for which I profusely apologized, I do not believe that there are any other instances in which Kaboeamodimo has been disappointed with the manner I have discharged my services.”
Jannie says “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.