SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng has vowed to “deal with” any employee disloyal to the public broadcaster.
This would be carried out through “Operation Clean Up”, he told reporters at the SABC’s headquarters in Johannesburg on Monday.
“We have realised that there are forces outside. They want to destabilise the organisation and also use internal people within the organisation and we are going to deal with them, especially with the people within the organisation.”
SABC employees were expected to be loyal to their employer.
He said the SABC would not let external parties tell it how to do its job and it had nothing to apologise for.
“We are not going to let anyone dictate to this organisation. We are here to lead. The reason why we are here is to lead and we are leading.”
Motsoeneng’s statements follow a decision, announced on 27 May, that the broadcaster would no longer air visuals of people destroying public property during protests.
As a responsible public institution, the SABC would not “assist these individuals to push their agenda that seeks media attention”, he said.
The following month, Media Monitoring Africa, the Save Our SABC coalition and the Freedom of Expression Institute laid a complaint with communications regulator Icasa’s complaints and compliance committee.
Icasa held a public hearing on the matter on 24 June. On Monday afternoon, Icasa’s acting chairman, Rubben Mohlaloga, told reporters that the order was binding. The SABC was given a week to reverse its decision.
On Monday however, SABC bosses remained defiant.
“No one is going to tell us what to do,” Motsoeneng said.
Journalists, civil society organisations, and members of the public protested outside the SABC’s offices in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg on 1 July. Three SABC employees were served with suspension letters two weeks prior, after they disagreed with an instruction during a diary conference not to cover the Right2Know Campaign’s protest against censorship at the SABC.
Three other employees were charged with “liaising with the media” after a letter they penned to Motsoeneng regarding their unhappiness with the editorial policy, was leaked.
The trio was charged shortly after acting CEO Jimi Matthews resigned on 27 June. In his resignation letter he said the “corrosive atmosphere” at the SABC had impacted negatively on his moral judgement and made him complicit in decisions he “was not proud of”.
“What is happening at the SABC is wrong and I can no longer be a part of it,” he said.