Unions demand explanation for SANDF deployment at SABC headquarters

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Communications Unions have called for an explanation into why armed soldiers were allowed inside the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) headquarters in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.

The staff has reported seeing soldiers carrying guns walking through the third floor of the TV Building where the News studios are situated.

The SABC has confirmed that soldiers were deployed to its offices in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to protect the national key points.

SABC Board Chairperson, Bongumusa Makhathini, says if soldiers were seen in the public broadcaster’s newsroom, it may have been to familiarise themselves with the building and its exit points.

“Based on what management has reported to us as a board, there’s no evidence that had been provided that the soldiers were marching in the newsroom. They may have been walking around because for them to be able to guard these premises, they needed to be clear about all the exits. And it is an operational matter. And if there’s any evidence of soldiers on our studios, I would like to see that.”

President of Bemawu, Hannes du Buisson has challenged the SABC to study their CCTV cameras if they want proof of the soldiers in the newsroom. He says the presence of soldiers creates an atmosphere of fear.

“That easily could create the impression that government or the SANDF are watching you, as journalists. You don’t have to say anything, your mere presence there totally out of place, totally unwarranted, unjustified, being in the public broadcaster building armed with rifles, totally out of place. All of that has certainly created the impression that we are not free, we are not independent, we are watched by Big Brother.”

Reaction to SANDF deployment to the SABC: Hannes Du Buisson

‘Not aware of soldiers escorted into newsroom’

Police Minister Bheki Cele says he is not aware of soldiers being escorted into the newsroom. “Soldiers, as they operate in these particular cases, they operate under the guidance of the police. Maybe the police can report to me why they would come to the newsroom if indeed they did.”

The SANDF says they were deployed to National Key Points during the riots in July, and SABC premises are part of that deployment. SANDF spokesperson, Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, says soldiers will remain stationed where they are needed until they are told to withdraw.

“Our soldiers, when the unrest started, we started deploying our soldiers to national key point areas. The SABC was one of them. And then this deployment will continue until we receive instruction from the Commander in Chief that our soldiers must start withdrawing from the areas where they are.”

Aubrey Tshabalala from the Communication Workers Union says the soldiers must immediately withdraw from the SABC buildings.

“This decision must be reversed completely. If they do not do that then we will do what we did last week and approach the portfolio committee. The third thing that we need to see, even if they do not withdraw the decision the SABC they must come back to the table and explain to us the decision they have taken, as labour, so that we go back to labour and explain why was it there in the initial place, whether we agree with it or not, but we need an explanation.”

Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula tweeted: “We know that the rebels intended to take over the broadcaster.” Du Buisson says if this is true, the broadcaster must play open cards with the employees and the country.

“If a Minister of this country says the rebels wanted to take over the broadcaster, that is very serious. And I think the question should be asked to the board, were you aware or are you aware of any attempts that were aimed at taking over the public broadcaster, the SABC? And why has that not been communicated to the general public out there.”

The SABC says it will not be commenting further at this stage.

SABC confirms SANDF deployment at its headquarters in Auckland Park