Cape Twon – The suddent resignation of SABC acting chief executive Jimi Matthews has been hailed by groups across the country as a move of integrity amidst crisis at the national broadcaster.
From political parties to non-governmental organisations and advocacy groups, Matthews’s resignation has been viewed as an indictment of the state of management at the SABC.
Matthews posted his resignation letter on Twitter on Monday morning.
“What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it,” he wrote.
The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) and the Right2Know campaign said that while Matthews had previously supported chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, his resignation was a step in the right direction.
Right2Know spokesman Micah Reddy said: “Matthews has long been complicit in the decline of the SABC and the unethical decisions that he now rails against. He has also staunchly supported Hlaudi. He has publicly apologised for his role in all of this and for not speaking out when his voice needed to be heard. We urge others to follow Matthews and take a stand against Hlaudi and his despotic rule.”
Reddy said the Right2Know campaign would support the legal cause of three senior SABC journalists who were suspended after they took issue with a directive from Motsoeneng to not air protest footage.
“We also urge the public to join the campaign against Hlaudi – we cannot allow him to rule the SABC as his own personal fiefdom for any longer,” Reddy said.
The SA National Editors Forum called on SABC leadership to reverse its policies to censor the news.
“The apartheid regime used the SABC as a propaganda tool but was not able to dupe the South African public,” spokesman Mpumelelo Mkhabela said. “We call on the leadership of the SABC to urgently reverse its decision to censor the news and allow its journalists to work in a free environment that does not compromise their ethics.”
Motsoeneng’s recent policy announcements include the banning of airing violent protest footage on air, a call for 70 percent “positive” news, a ban on negative stories about President Jacob Zuma and a ban on showing newspaper headlines on air.
The DA’s Phumzile van Damme said the party agreed with the sentiment behind Matthews’s resignation.
“The DA will be calling on SABC COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, to be fired at once as we believe the erosion of the SABC can be laid squarely at his feet and those who seek to protect him,” Van Damme said. “The DA will not rest until Mr Motsoeneng is stripped of his position and we can start rebuilding a public broadcaster that honours the constitutional imperatives on which it is founded by operating in the public interest.”
South African Communist Party, Cope and the Inkatha Freedom Party threw their weight behind Matthews’s decision.
The EFF was the only group to not stand in full support of Matthews. Julius Malema and Mbuyiseni Ndlozi tweeted their doubts about Matthews.
“We know the internal voices of resistance in SABC. Mr @jimimatthews is not part of them. He worked to silence moral conscience in others,” the @EFFSouthAfrica official account tweeted.
“We know that @jimimatthews is not the saviour of SABC. He was there all along, defending, eating and rising on the back of wrong things. He signed the ICASA affidavit defending editorial decisions to ban protest coverage.”
Cosatu condemned the SABC’s decision to suspend three employees who took issue with the ban on protest footage.
“The SABC ought to be the voice of the South African people, informing, educating and entertaining all our communities and reflecting the diversity of our cultural, linguistic, political, religious, sporting and social heritage,” said spokesman Sizwe Pamla.
“We expect the public broadcaster to deepen its accountability to its audiences by being transparent in its activities.”
SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago could not be reached for comment.