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The following remarks were delivered by DA Leader, Mmusi Maimane MP, at a picket outside the SABC headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Maimane was joined by DA Gauteng Provincial Leader, John Moodey MPL, DA Shadow Minister of Communications and National Spokesperson,Phumzile Van Damme MP, and DA National Spokesperson,Refiloe Nt’sekhe MPL.
Fellow South Africans
We gather here today outside the SABC Headquarters in Auckland Park to demonstrate our unequivocal opposition to, and disapproval of, the revival of an old apartheid relic – a tactic of the National Party that is now alive and well under Jacob Zuma’s ANC.
That, democrats, is the resurgence of state censorship under the ANC.
It was the National Party that employed these tactics at the height of apartheid in order to paint a “good story” of South Africa and to hide the real state of affairs in the country from both the domestic and international audience. This while a full blown crime against humanity was in session.
Today, under Jacob Zuma and Hlaudi Motsoeneng, we see the exact same thing unfolding.
State capture of the media serves an extremely vital purpose for a failing and unpopular government: to hide the truth and paint a false narrative of the real state of affairs.
You see, fellow South Africans, the power of censorship and state capture of the media is unrestrained. It starts with a few editorial decisions that seem justifiable, and next thing you know entire programmes are cancelled, journalists are fired, and the truth as to what is happening in our country is completely distorted for political gain.
What we are witnessing is the operations of a dictator. President Zuma knows that if you can control the airwaves, you can control the country. And in order to do this, Zuma requires an unbridled dictator. He has found that in Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
The project of state capture in South Africa is simple: protect the battered image of Jacob Zuma and the ANC, and you will be handsomely rewarded. In the process, get rid of those who stand in the way of this mission.
And at the heart of the state capture and censorship of the media is the infamous Hlaudi Motsoengeng.
Inside this very building behind us sits the SABC’s Chief Operations Officer (COO), Hlaudi Motsoeneng. A man who blatantly lied about his qualifications, and who the Public Protector found to not be a fit and proper person to hold this position of COO. A man who earns R2.4 million of the people’s money to protect Jacob Zuma.
Yet under Zuma’s ANC, anything goes. The more unfit and unqualified you are, the more room there is for manipulation.
Under Hlaudi Motsoegeng, a string of controversial matters have occurred.
In November last year, the SABC’s previous CEO, Frans Matlala, was erroneously suspended for acting in a manner “too independent” for Mr Motsoeneng and Minister of Propaganda, Faith Muthambi – a decision as bizarre as it is concerning.
In March this year, SABC cancelled senior political journalist Vuyo Mvoko’s show, On The Record, after he had planned to discuss state capture by the Guptas on a future instalment of his show. Moreover, it was reported that Mvoko was criticised by SABC bosses for being too harsh in an interview with North West ANC Premier Supra Mahumapelo, a big Zuma ally and supporter. For Mvoko it was a choice: the ANC or his job.
In May this year, the SABC refused to air the DA’s election adverts, citing “delays in the IEC’s work with respect to the elections”. The SABC was, predictably, the only broadcaster that refused to air the DA’s adverts.
In June this year, in an obvious attempt to censor any negative news stories about the ANC on SABC radio stations ahead of the local government election, Hlaudi banned the reading of newspaper headlines on all SABC radio stations.
Also in June this year, The Editors – a very popular programme on SAFM on Sunday mornings where the political events of the week are critically analysed, debated and discussed by newspaper journalists and editors – was discontinued. The programme has been a serious concern for the ANC as its poor record as a governing party is often discussed and criticised.
Just last week, Hlaudi Motsoeneng placed a ban of visuals of community protests involving the destruction of public property in Tshwane. You see, the real story behind the Tshwane violence is well-known. It’s a story of the ANC disregarding the principle of democracy and ensuring a Zuma pal is parachuted into a job in order to become a “yes” woman for the Zuma project. A furious attempt to mitigate this damage was launched by Hlaudi.
And yesterday, the SABC’s Acting Group CEO, Jimmi Matthews, resigned from his position with immediate effect, stating the “corrosive atmosphere [that] has impacted negatively on my [his] moral judgement” as the principle reason for his resignation.
The DA welcomes Mr Matthews’s courageous bravery and integrity in making this decision.
Fellow South Africans, our constitution protects freedom of the press and the free flow of information by stating that “everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of the press and other media, and freedom to receive or impart information or ideas”.
Nowhere in the Constitution does it say – “unless the President does not approve, or unless it paints the government and governing party in a bad light”.
Yet today, this is modus operandi.
When journalists and the media question the ANC’s abuse of power – they’re censored or fired.
When those inside the ANC question the ANC’s abuse of power – they’re demoted and ostracised.
And when ordinary South Africans question the ANC’s abuse of power – they’re called sell-outs and apartheid sympathisers.
A public broadcaster provides fair, objective and unbiased news for the public. Whereas a state broadcaster distorts and censors reality, so that the state is painted in a good light.
Under Zuma’s instruction, Hlauid Motsoeneng is successfully turning our public broadcaster into a state propaganda machine. We will not allow this to happen and for the ANC government to adopt apartheid style tactics.
We stand with members of the media profession – journalists, editors, reporters – who seek to carry out their jobs without fear, favour or prejudice.
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.
We must restore the image of public broadcaster, and stop the assault on all of our freedoms while Hlaudi Motsoeneng is at the helm of the SABC.
We are here today to make one thing clear – Hlaudi must fall!
By Mmusi Maimane