Disciplinary hearing of SABC News Head to be open to the media

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The disciplinary hearing of SABC News Head Phathiswa Magopeni will be open to the media. Chair of the hearing, Advocate Nazeer Cassim has ruled that journalists will be allowed into the meeting to report on the outcome, in Sandton Johannesburg on Friday morning.
This comes after lawyers representing the South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) and the Campaign for Free Expression (CFE) wrote to the chair asking for the process to be transparent.
Magopeni was reportedly charged by the public broadcaster for alleged negligence and bringing the public broadcaster into disrepute.
The matter relates to the airing of a Special Assignment episode, the SABC had been interdicted from broadcasting.
CFE Executive director, Anton Harber, says the ruling has been hailed as a victory for transparency in matters of high public interest.

“The SABC has not contested our application to ensure that the disciplinary hearing into Phathiswa Magopeni is open, so the chair has ruled that it will open. This is an important victory with the hearing of this nature where there is strong public interest should be open. The SABC should be fully transparent, so the public can see if there is any validity to the claims that Miss Magopeni is being targeted because she stood up against editorial interference. It is a very important point and hopefully, we will be able to establish the facts because the hearing will be fully open so we are pleased about that.”

Magopeni has lodged a formal complaint against the public broadcaster’s CEO Madoda Mxakwe over several issues, including alleged editorial interference, abuse of power and attempts to remove her from her position.

She has also laid a similar complaint against SABC board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini.

In the complaint, Magopeni says the SABC’s CEO and chair tried to force her to approve an interview with ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa before the recent local government election which she refused.

SANEF says these developments come on the back of political pressure and attacks on Magopeni, from the ANC, which accuses her of being the cause of the governing party’s poor electoral performance in the recent local government elections.

SANEF Chairperson Sbu Ngalwa says an open and transparent process will not only assist the public to make up its mind on the case, but it will also aid the SABC to dispel the perception that the process is part of a political witchhunt.

“Obviously, there are charges leveled against Miss Magopeni, for allegedly bringing the SABC into disrepute but at the same time, there are counterclaims from Miss Magopeni which are directed at chairperson of the board and the CEO of the cooperation. There are allegations of meddling and interference in news operations at SABC. As SANEF, that is concerning to us, because we do know that the SABC comes from that history of political manipulation. We would hate to see the corporation go back to those days.”

The SABC’s Group Executive of Corporate Affairs and Marketing, Gugu Ntuli, has declined to comment on the matter.