Hlaudi Motsoeneng, the former COO of SABC, continued with his testimony, at the State Capture Inquiry, and in true Motsoeneng fashion, it has been more entertaining than it’s been informing, to say the least.
The former SABC COO returned, after an eventful debut, to the hot seat to give testimony before Deputy Chief Justice, Raymond Zondo.
Motsoeneng kicked things off by defending his honour after he was questioned about his qualifications and whether they merited his high-ranking position within the public broadcaster.
This formed a large part of the first day of Motsoeneng’s testimony. When he returned for the second day, he faced some serious grilling, and so far, this is what has been covered by the inquiry.
You will remember that, in 2016, a group of SABC journalists were suspended for failing to stick to the violent protest ban that was implemented by the public broadcaster.
The instruction, according to the South African National Editors Forum (Sanef), was confirmed during a diary conference that o journalist was allowed to cover Right2Know’s campaign protest against censorship at the public broadcaster.
The other issue of contention that also prompted the protests involved Motsoeneng’s managerial changes and the introduction of a policy that basically gave him overarching powers on final editorial decisions.
Probed on the controversial suspensions, Motsoeneng revealed that the decision to initiate disciplinary hearings for some journalists “was based on the issue of the journalists who leaked information.”
He denied that he made the final decision to have the journalists placed in suspension. Instead, he indicated that a gentleman by the name of Simon Ndebele was the one who made the call, since the journalists apparently reported directly to him.
The public broadcaster’s initial reason behind the violent protest ban was to ” “educate the population”, and send a clear message that violence was not going to get the rioters the attention they apparently sought.
Motsoeneng maintained this position, stating that he wanted to remove those violent visuals to indicate that the broadcaster was not supportive of the burning of private property.
Asked if this was, in a way, his way of protecting the government at the time, Motsoeneng said, “No Chair I’m a south African and we are all government as South Africans.”
We are not exactly sure what that means, or what bearing it has on the question at hand but that’s Motsoeneng for you. At the time of publishing this article, Zondo had adjourned proceedings for lunch, with the former SABC COO expected to close off his testimony after 14:00.