Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Signs of shakeup at SABC

South Africa’s public broadcaster said today it had suspended its top executive, one day after doing the same to the head of its news and current affairs division. The moves suggested a shake-up and power struggle at the SABC, which has been accused of slanting political coverage.
Supporters of increasingly powerful ruling party leader Jacob Zuma had accused the radio and television service of favouring President Thabo Mbeki in a contest to lead the African National Congress last year. Zuma won overwhelmingly. uma’s supporters also said the SABC undermined Zuma with its coverage of his corruption case. The ANC leader goes on trial in August for money-laundering, racketeering, fraud and corruption.
In a statement issued early on today, SABC announced that Dali Mpofu, the group chief executive officer, had been suspended with pay in part over allegations he failed or refused to follow decisions taken by the broadcaster’s board. “The board has resolved to conduct an investigation into very serious allegations about the conduct of the GCEO,” it said, adding that no decision had been taken to terminate Mpofu’s employment.
Yesterday the broadcaster announced that Mpofu had suspended Snuki Zikalala, its top news executive, pending an investigation into allegations of “serious misconduct.” It declined to provide details.
The SABC has struggled to defend its credibility, denying it was becoming an information arm for Mbeki’s government and surrendering its independence as it had done during the dark days of apartheid. The broadcaster was fiercely criticised in 2006 for cancelling a controversial documentary about Mbeki that it said was unbalanced and potentially defamatory. It also was accused of routinely banning pro-Zuma commentators from its broadcasts.
Expectations that SABC was in for a facelift have swirled since Zuma won the ANC leadership in December. Many pro-Mbeki officials have been purged from party and parliamentary positions as well as state-run institutions since Zuma’s victory, and Mbeki is increasingly seen as a lame duck with less than a year to serve in his final term.
South Africa’s media is generally among the the most unrestrained on the continent, and its freedom from political harassment is enshrined in the democratic constitution established after the end of white minority rule in 1994.
(Source: Reuters/R Netherlands Media Network Weblog)