JOHANNESBURG Dec 14 South African
Communications Minister Faith Muthambi denied on Wednesday that
she had tried to get the SABC to suppress news of protests and
discontent, when she testified to a parliamentary inquiry into a
string of scandals at the public broadcaster.
The probe, led by a cross-party panel of MPs, is the latest
example of allies of President Jacob Zuma being called to
account for alleged misspending or underperformance during his
seven years in charge.
The SABC is the primary news source for South Africa's 54
million people but has been mired in editorial and executive
controversy this year, including journalists being told to focus
on "sunshine news" and not show footage of violent protests.
All of its directors have resigned over the year, leaving
non-executive chairman Mbulaheni Maghuve as the sole member of
In her testimony, Muthambi denied holding any sway over
editorial policies such as the ban on violent protest footage,
which was introduced shortly before mid-year elections but
rescinded after a public outcry.
"I don't work at the SABC," she said. "I don't have any
influence in the SABC's editorial decision."
She also defended her decision to appoint Hlaudi Motsoeneng
as Chief Operating Officer. A court ruled this week that
Motsoeneng, who was found to have falsified his academic
qualifications, should not hold any position at the SABC and
barred him from entering the premises.
Two journalists at the SABC, which reaches more than 20
million people with 18 radio stations and four television
channels, gave damning testimony against Motsoeneng this week,
describing his "reign of terror" in the newsroom.
One of the journalists said it was an "open secret" at the
SABC that Motsoeneng was protected by Zuma, whose popularity has
taken a hit as he grapples with near record unemployment, a weak
economy and a string of personal scandals.
Motsoeneng was not immediately available to comment. He has
said that showing violent protest footage would encourage
(Reporting by James Macharia; Editing by Ed Cropley and Ralph