Krivani Pillay: Motsoeneng Interfered In SABC Newsroom To Protect ANC, Zuma

Krivani Pillay testifies at the State Capture Inquiry on 5 September 2019.

SAfm executive producer Krivani Pillay said former South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) boss Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s seemingly irrational decisions, which interfered in the functioning of the newsroom, were designed to protect former President Jacob Zuma and the African National Congress (ANC) from criticism.

Pillay, who is a member of the so-called SABC 8, made this submission at the state capture commission of inquiry on Thursday where she recalled how she was fired for daring to question Motsoeneng’s decision to ban visuals of protests on the public broadcaster’s television channels.

Pillay said Motsoeneng instructed that political analysts would no longer be used on air.

He further instructed that there would be no analysis of Zuma’s 2016 State of the Nation Address.

Pillay was asked what she believed was the thinking behind Motsoeneng’s orders.

She responded and said: “There was a view not to criticise President Jacob Zuma, not to pain him in a poor light, not to paint his leadership in a poor light, not to show that service delivery failures at the hands of governance or the governing party in weeks before an election.”

Pillay described how the SABC was seen as a valuable institution to capture because it could be used to speak to an entire nation.

She also described how Motsoeneng pulled a show from air because he felt offended that its hosts had debated and criticised his decision to ban visuals of protests on the public broadcaster’s TV channels.

On Wednesday, Pillay’s colleague Foeta Krige told the commission how Motsoeneng ruled the broadcaster by decree and had people who stood in his way removed.

Pillay said she found out about the SABC’s decision to ban protest visuals through a public statement, not internally.

She said she was summoned to a meeting after a panel on The Editors show on SAfm discussed this decision.

“Forty-eight hours after the Sunday programme, Mr Motsoeneng was aggrieved that the programme criticised his decision because callers that had come in on the programme wondered about the merits of such a decision.”

Pillay told the commission what Motsoeneng said at the meeting: “We are cleaning up the organisation. People are doing their own stuff. There are many journalists outside who want to work for the SABC. The environment outside is bad; no person within the SABC is independent. You must adapt or find a job somewhere else.”

Pillay said that Motsoeneng said there couldn’t be anyone who questioned management.