1. NADEL wishes to contextualise the recent happenings at the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) especially in light of the recent judgment by the Constitutional Court regarding the powers of Chapter 9 Institutions. The shenanigans at the public broadcaster are putting the whole nation to shame, especially the black majority “with the obvious exclusion of those who are benefitting of this impasse”. Indeed, this is blight and a deep scar on African progress and intellect. Section 16(1) (a) of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa Act 108 of 1996 speaks of freedom of the press and media, obviously subject to the Limitation clause, which is not relevant here as correctly portrayed in the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa’s (ICASA) ruling in the matter between the SABC and several civil society organisations. Further, the Constitution of this country in terms of Section 181(2) – (5) clearly establishes governing principles in respect of Chapter 9 Institutions. Clearly therefore, Section 192 of the Constitution speaks to these principles when it established an independent authority to regulate broadcasting in this country. Now, in light of all of this and the SABC’s own overabundance of resources to obtain legal opinion, we do not believe that these matters have not been brought to the attention of the powers that be at the SABC. We believe that referring this matter to Parliament is to hide in a river on a rainy day because you do not want to get wet.
2. NADEL welcomes the ruling by ICASA that “the order by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) as articulated in its policy statement of 26 May 2016 (SABC will no longer Broadcast footage of Destruction of Public Policy) is invalid from its inception and the SABC is directed to withdraw its resolution as published in its statement of 26 May 2012, “ and that “the SABC must confirm in writing to the council via the CCC within 7(seven) calendar days from the date on which the order is emailed”.
3. In arriving at its decision ICASA correctly found that;
(a) “the order of the SABC places an absolute ban on a subject. A Subject, as such, may never be blocked from SABC television or radio. South Africa is not, as in the Apartheid era, a dictatorship. The Broadcasting code does indeed place certain limits on the Screening of violence, but that code may only be applied when a complaint is lodged with the relevant authority, be that the Broadcasting Complaints Commission of South Africa (BCCSA) or the Complaints and Compliance Committee (CCC) and after a broadcast- that is clear from Section 3(2) of the Electronic Communications Act 200. Furthermore, the Broadcasting code is clear as to the broadcast of violence, it does not prohibit the mere broadcasting of violence but it depends on the manner in which it is broadcast”,
(b) “the SABC resolution in the present matter amounts, as its core, to a categorical blocking of the public’s right to information”.
4. NADEL is horror-struck by the reaction of the public broadcaster’s Chief Operations Officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng to the ruling, who in a press briefing stated that “we are not going to change anything” and “no one will tell us what to do”. Motsoeneng further stated that the public broadcaster intended to review the decision. Whilst we respect the right of any persons dissatisfied with a particular ruling to take the matter on review, the response by Motsoeneng is unfortunate (to say the very least) and creates an impression of blatant contempt for ICASA and fails to understand the sensitivity of this matter. The subject matter here is the public broadcaster, whose mandate is one of the most crucial in a democratic state. A Chapter 9 Institution has found that it (the SABC) has violated not only the Broadcasting Act and conditions of its license but also its Constitutional obligations.
5. NADEL insists that the ruling be complied with immediately and without further delays as same is binding upon the SABC. The support by the SABC Board for the COO is startling and makes the organisation more suspicious regarding the matter. Should the SABC fail to respond to the order timeously NADEL shall welcome any decision or action by ICASA against the public broadcaster by ICASA including withdrawal of its license together with other appropriate remedial actions. NADEL shall hold a meeting in which options on an appropriate action will be considered, which includes, but not limited to, joining other civil organisations in a public protest and other forms of expression.
ISSUED ON BEHALF OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF DEMOCRATIC LAWYERS (NADEL), SOUTH AFRICA.
By: Memory Sosibo
Publicity Secretary, NADEL Executive Committee,
Contact: 081 710 7910
15 July 2016