Sources within the SABC are accusing the ANC of employing bully tactics to control news coverage ahead of the 2019 elections.
Speaking to the City Press, the sources said that the ANC’s head of elections, Fikile Mbalula, met with senior editors at the broadcaster and was confrontational about the lack of coverage of ANC events.
Mbalula wants more coverage because the ANC is the bigger party. However, the editors said that they had to cover other parties because the ANC had so many events that the SABC would appear biased if they covered them all, the paper reported.
The SABC and Mbalula confirmed the meeting took place, but the latter denied bullying or being confrontational.
The SABC is in deep financial crisis, and its ability to keep running is in the hands of government – which is being run by the ANC.
Newly-placed minister of communications, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has already had a hand in interference with the broadcaster’s operation, having shut down any plans for it to retrench staff in a bid to save money.
Ndabeni-Abrahams has also blocked the group’s journalists from recording and reporting on protests at ANC election rallies.
There are also reports of meddling with the SABC board, with tensions over eight new board members being selected by Parliament ahead of the elections.
Opposition parties have accused the ANC of frustrating the board to get its way, by dragging out board processes, threatening to dissolve the board, and by holding out on a government bailout.
In his 2019 budget speech, finance minister Tito Mboweni did not mention the SABC as one of the state companies that would be getting any financial support from Treasury this year.
Support for state companies remained mostly the same as announced in 2018 mid-term budget policy statement (MTBPS), with the only changes being R69 billion in financial support for Eskom, and an additional bailout for the South African Post Office (SAPO).
The 2018 MTBPS allocated R5 billion to South African Airways (SAA), R1.2 billion to South African Express Airways and R2.9 billion to the South African Post Office (SAPO) in the current year.
An additional R1.5 billion was allocated to SAPO over the next year.
Other state-owned companies, including SAA, the South African Broadcasting Corporation and Denel, have requested fiscal support to continue operating, however Mboweni said they will not get bailouts that blow the expenditure ceiling.