The Congress of the people (Cope) have called on Parliament’s ad hoc committee, investigating the fitness of the SABC board to serve, to summon the former SABC acting chief executive officer, Jimi Matthews to testify.
Cope’s Dennis Bloem said that Matthews’ name had come up often in the course of the inquiry, especially by the SABC8 – the eight journalists controversially fired and then reinstated. They were dismissed for objecting to the broadcaster’s decision not to cover the violent service delivery protests earlier this year.
Bloem said that very serious allegations were made against Matthews regarding his role in the censorship employed at the SABC and his threats towards journalists who disagreed with him. Krivani Pillai, a producer at SAFM, testified before the inquiry that Matthews had told staff, “It’s cold outside… you’ve got two choices‚ the door or the window”.
Referring to the former acting CEO’s resignation letter, Bloem said that Matthews had said the time will come where “he will have the opportunity to tell the country the reasons for his decision. We now say this would be a great opportunity for Matthews tell his story”.
In his resignation letter, Matthews wrote that “For many months I have compromised the values I hold dear under the mistaken belief that I could be more effective inside the SABC than outside‚ passing comment from the side-lines. In the process the prevailing‚ corrosive atmosphere has impacted negatively on my moral judgment and has made me complicit in many decision which I am not proud of”.
Bloem went on to say that if the committee truly wanted to clean up the public broadcaster, they must not only focus on the controversial former chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng, but look broader and include all those who helped him.
The inquiry will continue in January 2017, with former board chairs Ben Ngubane and Ellen Tshabalala listed to testify.