Acrimony deepens as SABC snubs Ramaphosa visit to West Africa

Johannesburg – The decision by the SABC to not travel to West Africa with President Cyril Ramaphosa has deepened the fallout between the Presidency and the public broadcaster.

This comes as new details emerge of how the president was allegedly snubbed, when the SABC turned down a request to interview him ahead of the local elections.

It is understood knives are out as the public broadcaster’s mandarins gather ammunition to dismiss SABC group executive for news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni, whom they blame for the fiasco.

In the latest episode, Sunday World can reveal that the SABC rejected Ramaphosa’s offer to partly cover the costs of the SABC to accompany him on his four-nation tour of Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast and Senegal.

The week-long visit to the west African countries ends on Tuesday.

August 05 2019. South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) group executive of news current affairs. Phathiswa Magopeni during the commission of inquiry into editorial interference in Auckland Park Pic Veli Nhlapo

Yesterday, Ramaphosa landed in Ghana’s capital Accra for a two-day state visit that ends today, after which he will head to Senegal.

Ramaphosa has been exploring ways to leverage opportunities presented by the African Continental Free Trade Area, among others, amid the country’s sluggish economy.

The Presidency spokesperson Tyrone Seale confirmed the SABC was invited to the tour.

“The Presidency invited media organisations, including the SABC, to indicate their interest in covering the president’s visit.

This was done in the spirit of the Presidency’s good relations with the media, and in the interest of broadening South Africans’ understanding of South Africa’s partnership with partner states in West Africa,” he said.

This, just days after a public fallout between Magopeni, SABC Group CEO Madoda Mxakwe and board chairperson Bongumusa Makhathini.

Magopeni has lodged a complaint against the two, alleging they have been interfering in her work.


She is facing disciplinary charges relating to the broadcaster flighting a Special Assignment episode that a court-ordered should not be broadcast.

At the heart of the battle is Magopeni’s refusal to allow the SABC to interview Ramaphosa in Limpopo on the eve of the local elections, which she said had not been scheduled.

Magopeni claimed the Special Assignment issue was used to hound her out after she refused to bow to pressure from Mxakwe and Makhathini over Ramaphosa’s interview.

SABC’s group executive for corporate affairs and marketing, Gugu Ntuli, said the trip could not be undertaken as the associated costs were too much to carry.

“The Presidency only allocated the flights budget for a four-leg trip over seven days.

The corporation was expected to pay for accommodation, health insurance and Covid-19 clearance PR tests for visits to four different countries,” she said.

Meanwhile, Sunday World has it on good authority that Magopeni allegedly rejected ANC spokesperson Pule Mabe’s request for Ramaphosa to be interviewed by three radio stations in Limpopo during the party’s campaign trail in the province.

Relating the incident, a SABC executive, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals, alleged Ramaphosa had arrived in Limpopo on Saturday, November 23 after Capricorn FM station manager James Shikwambana had agreed to bring him to the station.

The executive said Mabe had pleaded with Shikwambana to supply the feed to the SABC’s three regional radio stations – Thobela FM, Munghana Lonene FM and Phalaphala FM .

He said Mabe’s concern was that it would send wrong messages to the citizens of Limpopo for Ramaphosa to be interviewed by a private radio station and not SABC radio stations.

The insider further said Mabe phoned Mxakwe and Makhathini and told them that Capricorn FM had agreed to provide the feed, but the two had refused, saying they could not take a feed from a private radio station that was situated a heartbeat away from the headquarters of the three radio stations.

“They then told Mabe that the president would go to the headquarters of the three radio stations after finishing his interview on Capricorn FM,” said the insider before Shikwambana then provided a feed to all the community radio stations in Limpopo.


It is alleged Mxakwe and Makhathini asked Magopeni to schedule “a special interview” with Ramaphosa on the stations, but she refused.

“She told them that the SABC had assigned its reporters to follow him wherever he was going but would not interview him live on air because he was not on their diary,” said the insider.

The insider said Magopeni was within her right to reject Mxakwe’s and Makhathini’s request.

“Remember, in terms of the editorial policy of the SABC, she takes final decision unlike in the past where the group CEO was the editor-in-chief.

When these guys arrived, some years back, they had said they would not interfere with editorial affairs of the SABC, but now they are.

The suspicion is that these guys are now interfering in the editorial affairs of the organisation because the board’s term ends in September next year, and Mxakwe’s contract ends in June 2023, and discussions to renew their contracts must start as early as next year.

“So, they are doing this to repair their damaged relationship with the ruling party.”

Magopeni has been charged with negligence and bringing the organisation into disrepute after she allegedly allowed a Special Assignment episode exposing anti-competitive conduct in the tow truck industry to be aired despite a high court interdict that prevented the SABC from doing so.

She has contended that this was not her decision, but that of the management of the channel.

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