Former acting SABC CEO Jimi Matthews details how his role at the SABC was reduced to “rubber-stamping” policies being brought under the “reign of terror” of Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Matthews resigned on Monday, publishing his resignation letter in which he stated that the “corrosive atmosphere” at the broadcaster had negatively impacted his moral judgement.
He also said he had become complicit in decisions which he had not been proud of.
Speaking to the City Press, Matthews said that under Motsoeneng, staff at the SABC were “bludgeoned to toe the line”, and that all decisions were made by the COO.
“We were just rubber-stamping. Newsroom unhappiness was growing. Instructions were delivered by diktat. He was exercising unbridled power,” Matthews said.
Under the leadership of COO Hlaudi Motsoenening, the SABC has taken a firm stance towards any news items that paint the government in a negative light.
Most notable was the broadcaster’s decision to outright censor any footage of “violent protests”, as well as any other media coverage bringing attention to civil unrest across the country.
Following a number of court cases against him, and pressure from Icasa over the censorship, Matthews said Motsoeneng found security in a personality cult, claiming that he is the SABC, and the SABC is him.
According to Matthews, Motsoeneng would regularly claim that the department of communications and the presidency was “furious” at the broadcaster’s reporting – something he would mention at meetings.
Matthews faced criticism from the department of communications for the “suspicious timing” of his resignation, with minister Faith Muthambi claiming he was looking for a bigger payout.
However, Matthews told the City Press that he left a R2 million a year job with no golden handshake and no benefits.
“If I were concerned about financial award, I did it very badly,” he said.
The former acting CEO apologised in his resignation for being complicit in many of the controversial decisions made by the SABC, and to all the people he let down by not speaking up sooner.
You can read the full story in the City Press for 3 July 2016.