NEWS

The State Security Agency Investigated SABC Staffers, Inquiry Hears ​​​​​​​

A former SABC manager told Parliament on Monday that security officials were asked to investigate a staff member for allegedly leaking information.

12/12/2016 16:55 SAST | Updated 12/12/2016 17:05 SAST
John Wessels / AFP / Getty Images
A protester rallies with others outside the Constitutional Court on 1 July 2016 in Johannesburg to protest against alleged bias and self-censorship in news coverage by the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) ahead of key municipal elections.

The State Security Agency investigated certain SABC staff members after they allegedly leaked information about the public broadcaster, a parliamentary inquiry heard on Monday.

Former SABC general manager of labour relations Madiwe Nkosi told the ad hoc committee looking into the broadcaster's board that the State Security Agency was asked to investigate former group executive of risk and governance, Itani Tseisi, for allegedly having leaked information.

Tseisi testified before the committee on Friday. The broadcaster suspended him in May 2014, for opposing key appointments and abuse of procedures. He returned in September 2016, but then left permanently in October.

"I basically learnt he had been cleared of the allegations, but there was very serious discomfort about him having to come back. They said he was a risk, so he can't come back," Nkosi said.

She said she didn't know if the SSA's involvement was "forgotten" or deliberately kept from her, but she said it had been downplayed.

Both ACDP MP Steve Swart and DA MP Phumzile van Damme registered their shock at hearing that the SSA was involved in an investigation of an SABC staff member.

ANC MP Hlomane Chauke said it was worrying.

"At some point the minister of state security will have to explain this thing," Chauke said.

Staff paranoia

Van Damme asked if the SSA's involvement had affected staff morale at the SABC.

"Yes. Particularly in the past year, this year, there was an atmosphere of paranoia," Nkosi replied.

"Even when colleagues were talking, they would look around and find out who is listening in on their conversations."

She said people would get the feeling that the SSA was acting on behalf of current group executive for corporate affairs and former COO, Hlaudi Motsoeneng.

She didn't understand why the SSA was called in when the SABC had an investigating unit.

"We have an internal audit committee who handles forensics. Those are the people who would investigate our internal cases."

In August 2015, the SSA was accused of conducting a "secret operation" at the SABC's Durban offices.

SSA spokesperson Brian Dube said the allegation came from staff, and that the agency was often asked to assist government departments and entities with investigations.

Nkosi said that over her five years at the broadcaster, her duties were increasingly delegated to the company's legal team, after she questioned and refused many of Motsoeneng's decisions.

She said it was made clear to her that she was becoming an irritation to the powers that be, and her resignation in September 2016 "fell on very fertile soil".