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Type Media Hearings
Starting Date 15 September 1997
Day 1 BROADCAST MEDIA
Names JONATHAN PROCTOR, TAU MATAU, LOUIS RAUBENHEIMER, DON BRISCOE, BHEKI KHATHIDE, JOHN VAN ZYL, JOHAN PRETORIUS, PROF S TERREBLANCHE
me if I would help him fix the Department of Broadcasting at that stage. I wasn't particularly enthusiastic because I had already said to John McKenney that I was getting out of step with my academic background and that I want to go back to my academic department as soon as possible. However he made it quite clear to me that this was a request that I couldn't turn down and that he certainly was not going to oppose that, and I also realised that unless I complied I would land up back in Cape Town rather rapidly. At that stage military conscription was still in place so I agreed to get stuck in for six months, fix the department and then go back to the university. I made two conditions to Clement Sahume and that was, firstly, that a State department of broadcasting was completely out of step with the way broadcasting operated on a global scale, and secondly if I was to do this he had to undertake to protect the organisation from State interference as far as possible. He agreed to these two conditions and I got stuck in. What I found was a polarised organisation. Some of the people working in the organisation were clearly sympathisers of the Homelandsystem and government and others were just pure professional broadcasters who had actually escaped the slavish racism of the SABC. I was very impressed by the professionalism of these gentlemen who really had wanted to make a difference and who really hated the fact that they couldn't work at the SABC because of the extreme racism here. Within a short space of time, and those of you who are broadcasters amongst us will know that once you start working in the broadcasting environment and it gets into your system there is very little escape, you really can't get out of it. It's extremely addictive and it's not an environment that you can leave with ease. The six months sort-of trundled into a year and basically in the first few years of my operation there the level of interference from the State was quite mundane to say the very least, complaints about the fact that you had received too much air time or that... One of the first things we did for example was, when we were reporting matters relating to the ANC instead of putting the letters ANC up on the screen I asked the news room if they would go and find file footage of Nelson Mandela as a living, breathing human being as opposed to something that people had never seen before. And all these things we did and they didn't seem to be too many complaints. However, in order to make the organisation more independent of the State we had to improve its revenue base and in order to improve its revenue base we had to rely on an agreement that was signed between the Mmabatha authorities and the Pretoria authorities and this agreement related to the re-broadcasting of Bop Broadcasting into Soweto. And the agreement went only the lines that this signal was only allowed to reach people who could speak Setswana. Now this was totally laughable to try and make a radio wave choose who it's going to go to and who it isn't going to go to and so I used this agreement to great effect to embarrass the Department of Home Affairs into trying to get broader coverage. Because with broader coverage in what was then the PWV we would have improved our revenue base to the point that we wouldn't have been dependent on the fiscus. However, the sort-of slavish attention to apartheid detail set the Home Affairs Department into a research cycle which tried to find out some way in which they could make sure that Bop TV only got to people who could speak Setswana, apart from the fact that they argued that people that spoke Setswana only lived to the south of Johannesburg in Soweto and the more I proved to them that people that spoke Setswana lived everywhere we didn't really get too far with that. Also then because we weren't making the kind of progress that we really needed to make and we started getting more and more letters from the "South African Embassy" in Mmabatho complaining about our programme content - you need to remember that at this stage the SABC never, ever broadcast any programmes that showed black people in any superior position. There were no programmes ever broadcast on television that showed black people kissing white people and so forth, and we did this. We broadcast all these programmes, the world didn't come to an end and in fact our audiences grew exponentially. We just delivered highly professional programming that people enjoyed. And what was happening was that Auckland Park was becoming increasingly more embarrassed by the fact that programming was available internationally that they could acquire, like the Cosby show, which they refused to show, and we showed it very successfully. We started broadcasting talk shows like the Arsinia(?) Hall show and so forth. This, I believe, was one of the sort-of founding problems. While we were broadcasting in the Homeland there wasn't any problem. The moment we wanted to broadcast to a broader audience, and our interest was not political at all, it was purely financial and that was if we could be independent of the State we would have less State interference in what we were doing. I also discovered during the process that I had large disagreements with two gentlemen. The one was the director of television and the other one was head of news. They both related to a sort-of more approach to news presentation, and both of these gentlemen led me to believe that they were not prepared to "liberalise the news" because they lived under constant threat of intimidation. After a year or so of trying to assure them that I would do my best to protect them - at one instance I actually suggested to the head of news that if he was so unhappy with his job as head of news he could move into a new position which was going to be created to start developing drama in Setswana and what we would do is find a new head of news. I thought this would be my opportunity to find somebody slightly more liberal. I hadn't discussed this with anybody other than him, and within five minutes of that discussion I was called over the road to who was then, to Minister Masila's office, who was then the Minister of Broadcasting, Posts and Telecommunication and told in no uncertain terms that I was to leave this man alone completely. It was then that I realised that in fact his protestations of intimidation had very little to do with intimidation and much more to do with his loyalty to serving the interests that he was there to serve. Anyway notwithstanding all of that we had sufficiently embarrassed the Home Affairs Department into taking us seriously and we had started broadcasting into the rest of Africa. Basically we felt that that was an alternative source of revenue and if the process of negotiating this ridiculous agreement was going to take some time that we should look for other sources of revenue. To a large extent Bop TV was very well received in the rest of Africa and we started receiving huge bag fulls of mail. We did interesting things like rang CNN, the only sort-of news service that was a 24 hour service at that stage back-to-back with our prime time programming and at the height of one of the Middle Eastern wars Bop TV and CNN was the only source of information for people sitting at home as to what was really going on since all the other news services had been cut off at a regional level. This interest in having the Faraday cage removed from the Brixton tower here and making sure that the signal could be reached by a wider audience and thereby unlocking almost R350 million which would have flowed into the advertising or revenue account of Bop Broadcasting, along with the fact that our - not march into Africa, but our really big welcome into Africa and the fact that I had started meeting with Pallo Jordan it was obvious to us at the time that we had a fiduciary duty to our organisation to make sure that we explained our activities to - who was obviously going to be the next government. I think that really got us into the kind of hot water which resulted in a number of my colleagues and myself being severely harassed for a very long time, our lives threatened, our eventual suspension and in certain circumstances incarceration. That really is in a nutshell basically covers my period of office. Obviously I am deeply concerned about the fact that as the head of the organisation I perhaps could have and should have done more to make sure that what happened to my colleagues was more limited than it was and to them I really would like to apologise that I perhaps didn't do more when perhaps I could have. And also to our viewers and listeners we did try to give you as unbiased a service as possible but to a large extent most news services are interfered with. If they are not interfered with officially, which I tried to limit through my office making sure that government communications were official they certainly were interfered with unofficially where one or two individuals were leaned on or were appointed years and years ago and they are there for years and sort-of carry out the instructions of their masters and when you try and move these people it becomes almost impossible to do that. However, I would also like to say that people like Richard Magate and Tau Matau diluted these effects, so certainly while we probably weren't as powerful, and didn't make as big an impact on the whole process as the SABC did, I think that perhaps in the final analysis our contribution was perhaps a little more positive than negative.
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much Mr Proctor. I know it's extraordinary difficult to try and summarise a long document and there are many aspects which you simply haven't had time to refer to, but the full document will be taken into account by the Commission. I just have a few questions which I would like to put to you. Firstly, Bophuthatswana was regarded by, as has become very apparent, by the majority of people as an illegitimate regime.
DR BORAINE: Can I just ask you, did you have any feelings of ambivalence of heading up a broadcasting service of a country which claimed independence against a background of an overwhelming number of people who saw it as illegitimate and yet these were the very people you were trying to serve, how did you reconcile that for yourself in taking that position?
MR PROCTOR: Well I think firstly the prospect of being put into the army with a rifle in my hand and receiving superior orders to kill a fellow citizen was certainly far more severe a concern for me than sitting in charge of a broadcasting organisation funded by South African taxpayer's money, and not only Bophuthatswana's money, but South African taxpayer's money I felt that if we could shift what we were doing positively, it was the best of the worst. So I wasn't ambivalent to it at all. I was extremely aware of it. And I think that the - my actions ultimately landed up in a - if I had been ambivalent I would probably still have been sitting there right to the bitter end but I think the fact that I felt as strongly as I did about what was happening and took the actions that I did in order to dilute my complicity meant that that was why I was eventually removed.
DR BORAINE: Thank you. In that connection in the Mail of the 28th of March 1991 they make this statement and I would like your comment. "Jonathan Proctor argued that Bop TV needed to become a 'national competitor as an open broadcast channel for the people'".I think those were your words. And they go on - "His argument to de-politicise broadcasting framed within the global trend of liberalisation appeared to speak out against government control of broadcasting..."And then this is the contentious bit - "....while in fact it was an argument for Bop Broadcasting's national independence in Southern Africa".Do you want to comment on that?
MR PROCTOR: I think all of that ties in very clearly with the fact that to a large extent we were the only alternative environment in which people could work that wanted to be in television and stay in South Africa outside of the SABC. Our argument certainly wasn't to become an extension of the Bophuthatswana communication system for the rest of South Africa and I don't think any of us believed that was possible. In fact what we had been doing at that stage was having quite far-reaching discussions with a number of the black unions and federations such as Nafcoc and Fabcos about how it would be possible to include more and more of South Africa while at the same time introducing some level of balance and accountability to the new viewers that we would gain by that, so that we could limit the level of dependence on the fiscus by increasing the revenue stream from a commercial audience, shift the balance power. And to a large extent I think you'd be able to -somebody like Gaby Magopo, the past president of Nafcoc, would be in a better position than me to explain how Nafcoc saw their way through to actually achieve that. I didn't have any particular masterplan in mind. I just felt the further we shifted the organisation away from government the safer it could become.
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much. You obviously had a lot of problems which you haven't even gone into about being under house arrest, losing your job and all the rest so you must have been doing something which aroused the opposition of your political masters as it were. Mr Andrew Kotswana, who died some while ago, he was the director of the Bop Library Services according to documentation in front of me he complained of censorship and actually wrote to you about that, was this a pattern? Was this something that you had to face all the time or was this an isolated situation?
MR PROCTOR: I don't know if I recall his particular correspondence, we had quite a large complaints division where the complaints - we actually received more congratulations than complaints, but obviously the issues that concerned me most were the complaints and certainly there were complaints, not only from individuals like Mr Kotswana but also from politicians who felt that they weren't getting sufficient air time. In Bop there was this sort-of we have an opposition party type of game going on and obviously if you want to play that game you have to make sure that opposition parties get as much time on air as ruling parties and so we received many complaints from various politicians who felt that they weren't getting a fair slice of news time. They were not ignored but the amount that you can do to correct these things in a short space of time is limited without removing - you know if you are stopped from removing the head of news from his job you have to rely on the other newsmen to manage the situation as well. So you have to manage it from your side and they have to manage it from their side.
DR BORAINE: I have only one final question and then I will hand back to the Chairperson in case my colleagues have additional questions. You must have had to - some dealings with Mwasa and in a submission they make the point that you were replaced by Eddie Mangope and had a great deal of problems with Minister Masilo. I think you yourself referred to that, but they say that the staff salary incremental negotiations with you, prior to you being replaced, were to use their word "fruitless", and I am just wondering about your relationship with Mwasa.
MR PROCTOR: In terms of the law operating in Bop at the time there was absolutely no recognition of any trace union whatsoever, so the very fact that I entered into discussions with them put me at risk as the head of an organisation. In fact it was illegal for me to sit down and even discuss salaries with them. Suffice to say that I was completely satisfied that the salaries paid at Bop were way ahead of the salaries paid at the SABC. Our basic minimum wage for anybody was R1 200 a month when similar posts in the Homeland were like R200,00 a month. So while discussions may have been "fruitless" and they were "fruitless" by design, and not my design, by a legal systems design, first of all we made sure that our conditions of service were way ahead of conditions of service operating anywhere in South Africa. We had maternity leave before anybody else had maternity leave. So we tried to make - in the absence of us being able to negotiate officially with Mwasa what we tried to do was create an environment where we over-compensated I suppose. So I accept that those discussions perhaps were fruitless from Mwasa's point of view, but certainly I am satisfied that the salaries were way ahead and the working conditions were way ahead of those that were apparently expected in the work place.
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much. I did say that I had no more questions, but there is just one more. You received a number of very worrying threats around the time when you were under incredible pressure and that stayed with you for quite a while, these unseen forces, I am not asking you to specify as to who you think they were, but they were there and I am just wondering have you had any problems with those unseen forces or threats since you have left, or has life returned to a little more, a normal situation for you
MR PROCTOR: Well life has returned to normal until now and I sincerely hope that as a result of my appearance here it will stay like that. I have no doubt that those unseen forces don't go away and it would be wonderful for us all working in the media if we could all really see who these unseen forces were, because we all suffer with these people that are unseen and make our lives hell when we do things that we think are right and they think are wrong. And certainly if they do reappear, which I sincerely hope they don't, you will be the first to hear about it. (Laughter)
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you Father. Mr Proctor you were actually, if I understand you correctly, a lecturer, an academic in the teaching department, was that your background before becoming the head of this corporation?
MR PROCTOR: Yes, that's true, that's correct. Well I was teaching in a teaching department and then I started working administratively for John McKenney, the Vice Chancellor of the University, so my academic life was put on the back-burner as such. The only reason that I managed to keep an academic post going for as long as I did was because I was reluctant to actually enter professional managerial life because I wanted to be an academic and I enjoyed the academic life, and I felt that this was going to be for a short period of time when I helped John, it landed up being much longer than I had expected.
MR PROCTOR: At the time I thought it was the worst thing that could possibly have happened to me because I was just surrounded by all of this stuff, and it's incredibly intimidating, also by a staff who had never met me, didn't know me and looked on me - they just didn't understand where I came from. However, I would recommend it because I arrived in the environment completely naive. I was completely unaware of all these forces that flow around the organisation, so I opened cupboards and skeletons dropped on me. And the less I knew about all this history the better it was because it gave me an opportunity to do things, naively, that nobody else would have considered doing because of all the forces and pressures. So the advantage was that I landed up having an argument with de Klerk. I mean had I come from a deeply sort-of ingrained media background I doubt whether I'd even have dared to get into a disagreement about something like a cross-border broadcasting agreement.
MR LEWIN: Mr Proctor if I could just rattle one skeleton briefly. I don't think we have got time to go into it, but there's a fascinating piece in your submission where you are talking about the fact that you had spent a great deal of time resisting, in your march into Africa, resisting any agreement with M'Net. Could you just indicate to us, possibly it's something that can be carried and rattled elsewhere, did you feel that, or was your resistance based on a feeling that the pressure that was put on you was not just say political, it might have been financial as well in relation to opening up channels for M'Net?
MR PROCTOR: It's always very difficult to know where these pressures come, and when you are working in a sort-of quasi political, commercial environment the commercial world has no compunction using political friends to lean on you when they don't want to get their hands dirty, so it was very difficult for me to really dissect where the pressures came from. The reason that I did not want to use the inscription system that had been proposed was because there was a more convenient, cheaper system available commercially on the open market, number one. Number two, I felt that if we as an organisation that belonged to the people were going to endorse some commercially owned technology on the rest of the continent, which we would have done by going on the Urdeto(?) technology, then there should have been some pay-back to the organisation. If we were going to endorse a product that had no penetration in the rest of Africa, we had maximum penetration, if we were going to endorse this technology then there should be some commercial recognition for it. And that was really the beginning and the end of my argument. Whether or not the pressure that I came under had anything to do with it I really don't know, although I just found it amazing that within, literally within weeks of having left this marriage happened. It was consummated at great expense to Bop Broadcasting, Bop Broadcasting paid a fortune to actually make this marriage happen. And if we have a look at its effect today the very thing that was set up and what I warned would happen, that it would destroy this, it's been destroyed, so that whole system actually collapsed the whole of Bop TV's action in Africa.
MR MATAU: My name is Matau. I am a national executive member of Mwasa, and I was based at the BBC in Mmabatho. I worked under Mr Proctor and later under Eddie Mangope. The submission we have submitted to the TRC was actually submitted initially to the Tebbutt Commission and our thrust here was basically to highlight the injustices that were visited on us by the regime in Mmabatho throughout our stay there as journalists. And we also needed to pay tribute to the workers in the Corporation because of the gallant actions they undertook up until the fall of the government there. And primarily as a trade union we are forever and always trying to say to South Africa there needs to be an independent, just and free media in this country, devoid of any political interference, State interference, and that is basically what we are trying to say and bring to the attention of the TRC today.
MR MATAU: Before then some of us had links, individual staff members had links with Mwasa, but we knew the difficulties and even the dangers of trying to establish a formal structure on the ground, so that we were never, before '94 under Eddie Mangope, we were never formally structured within the Corporation.
MR NTSEBEZA: Yes I appreciate that because I think that's what Mr Proctor referred to when he said there wasn't a legal basis for you to be operative. Now what did you operate as, as a staff association when you entered into those negotiations with management before formal recognition of Mwasa as an organisation?
MR MATAU: We were hardly even formed into a staff association. I remember at that time we approached management from sections, different sections. I was working in the newsroom so we made presentations to our head who took our presentations to management. So there was no formal organisation.
MR NTSEBEZA: Now you have heard Mr Proctor's testimony, especially in regard to the question that was put to him where an opinion identified with Mwasa was expressed that negotiations with him were fruitless. He has given a reply thereto and he has actually indicated that the contrary should be the case, but what are your comments with regard thereto?
MR MATAU: It is true that salaries were better, benefits were better at the BBC at the time, but we were into a situation there where people were used to a certain level of remuneration and there is always this natural expectation that 12 months down the line you are going to get an increase, and these are the kinds of negotiations we were engaging management on at that time, not that our salaries were comparatively better than the SABC but simply that at what we are earning now this is about time for an increment.
MR NTSEBEZA: And was Mr Proctor aware that he was engaging those who had been in negotiations people who were officials of Mwasa or was he negotiating with individuals? I just want to see in what way Mwasa as Mwasa started to engage, never mind officially, officially being Mwasa from a law point of view?
MR NTSEBEZA: I see. Now I accept that unions primarily address issues that are intended to improve the working conditions of workers, bread and butter issues, but there is also a view, and especially in those days, struggle days, that unionists were perceived, not only by their bosses but also by the security forces, as having a political agenda. Now did you understand in those days, nineties, to be the view of management in BBC that you were also furthering a political agenda?
MR MATAU: It was a very known fact just to show an interest in union matters you will be branded, you will branded anti-government, you would be branded a security threat. We understood that only too well.
MR MATAU: I do not know of direct cases of incarceration or surveillance. There may have been surveillance on certain individuals and I am sure at the time I was one of them, but we carry no proof of that. But there has been incidents of harassment, particularly of the Broadcasting premises.
MR NTSEBEZA: Now in your knowledge, either from those years, the nineties, and then also at that stage that Mwasa became officially recognised were there any instances where the Corporation was forced, as a result of human action, to call in security forces? And were there instances where security forces acted against workers?
MR MATAU: The one case that stands out is the one documented in our submission. I think that was the 8th, 7th or 8th March in '94. There had always been threats of that eventually occurring within the Corporation but not until that day, and that was a brutal assault that ensued.
MR MATAU: Thanks. We actually grouped ourselves, in preparation of negotiations for salary increments with the Eddie Mangope management, into a workers representative committee. We met clandestinely at the Bop TV flats one evening and elected a ten member committee. The following day we introduced that committee officially by letter to Eddie and proposed to him that we meet at his earliest convenience as worker representatives to discuss seven points of grievances, including salary increments. At the same time we requested of him permission to hold a meeting on the premises with the rest of the staff and we reported the establishment of this ten member committee to staff and a resolution was taken to beef up the committee to 20 and seven names out of the 20 were proposed to become the negotiations committee on behalf of staff. This was duly reported to Eddie and we again asked for a meeting with him. It was difficult to secure that meeting with him but ultimately he agreed to meet us, no in fact he refused - we proposed a date to him and he decided to go vacationing in the Cape, and we decided to go slow in order to pressure him to come and meet with us. It took two days of hard bargaining with his secretary there until we decided to go on a full-blown strike on a Friday unless he came to meet us before the end of business that day. He was forced to come back to Mmabatho that Friday afternoon but it was too late because most of the members had left, so we proposed the following Monday for the meeting. We held the meeting. He returned seven "no's" on all our grievances, no agreement reached and we declared a dispute and went on strike. It was the following day on Tuesday that he tried to get people - because we were conducting our action at one of the studios, the (...indistinct) studios on the premises, and he wanted to get people out of the studios, out of the premises, he had the forces surrounding the Corporation already....(intervention)
MR MATAU: State security, the army. And he approached me personally as chairperson of the workers committee and ordered me to get everybody off the premises within ten minutes. I tried to reason with him to say you've got 2,000 odd people in there, almost 40% of them quite elderly, this is a massive, massive yard that the Corporation has, there is no way we are going to evacuate this place in ten minutes, give us twenty. And he said if you are not out in ten I bring in the forces. And that is exactly what he did. So we barricaded ourselves in that studio and stayed in there for the rest of the day with teargas and all.
MR NTSEBEZA: Was his son. Now, do you have a sense that your action, legitimate as it was in the context of it having been a worker protest for worker related issues, that it may have been perceived by the regime as yet another furtherance of a political programme of the liberation movement by workers and that's why it was brutally oppressed, or do you have some other views?
MR MATAU: I could see them thinking that way, and as a formally established union now we had actually foreseen the necessity for us to couple our industrial action with a broader political objective because we did not foresee that we could win the type of industrial action we were embarking on and still survive under the same political climate. So we sought to remove that political power at the same time.
MR NTSEBEZA: Indeed the Commission to which you made your submission, first the Tebbutt Commission as I understand it, I am not exactly sure whether I am right, was also wanting to look at the invasion of Bophutatswana by elements associated with the AWB, though you don't mention in your submission to how it affected you. Is there a sense in which you, you as a union, were affected by the events surrounding the AWB invasion?
MR MATAU: State control, especially of a media institution, is the worst thing that could ever happen in any state, in my mind, as a journalist. It stifles your creativity which is a necessary aspect of being a journalist. And when the State intervenes in the way it was doing in Mmabatho it instils fear and people who are afraid can never be sufficiently productive, and at the same time it creates a frustration. So you are pent up with emotions and one day you are going to burst and I believe this is exactly what happened to us. And that is why it is our thrust as a union to fight for a free media in this country and all over the world.
MR NTSEBEZA: Ja, now part of our mandate, and this is my last question, is to make recommendations, eventually to the State President and therefore to South African society because these will be tabled before Parliament, that should ensure that gross violations of human in whatever form should never take place again, and in the context of your submission and that of Mr Proctor and generally, in view of your remarks, what would you say, very cryptically, should be the nature of our recommendations to ensure that there is no recurrence of the sort of things that happened in BBP because of the reasons that you've stated?
MR MATAU: My recommendation would be that only journalists and broadcasters, professional journalists and broadcasters be involved with the business of broadcasting in this country, first, particularly where it involves editorial content. In a large corporation like the SABC or the BBC or the envisaged public broadcasting service, the new one that we are seeking to establish in this country, you need to engage professionals in certain key areas who are not necessarily broadcasters, that is fine, but editorial content and policy directives should be from broadcasters and journalists. We would again recommend that the State lays off of broadcasting, especially in terms of funding because we believe very strongly that he who pays the piper calls the tune. One way of getting rid of State interference is to rid the corporation of the need to rely on the State for funding. So we would say a once-off grant from government that would enable the corporation thereafter to operate professionally and to generate a healthy income basis for it to be self-funding in future. That would be the scenario we would love to create for a future healthy broadcasting scenario in the country.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Matau clearly, based on what you have said, the discussion of - the argument you have presented to us shows that as a union you have been concerned a lot about the independence of journalists, but I just wonder whether in your struggles you ever looked at gender issues. The reason why I am raising that because in our record of human rights violations, looking at what happened during the Soweto riots and what we heard when we held women's hearings was that gender insensitivity and lack of gender awareness on the part of journalists somehow contributed to gender specific human rights violations because those were never raised at all, and what we now shows that the media played a major role, I mean indirectly, by not highlighting those. My second question, if I might ask you Mr Proctor, is I will just like to get your view as to where - I mean is it possible, in your own view, for the media as an institution to be located in such a way that it's not manipulated by either the left or the right? Because - I mean if you heard our Chairperson when he made his opening remarks he was talking about a free, courageous, vibrant press, and as long as - based on what you are saying and the programmes you tried to push like to say something about the Mandela release, getting Hugh Masekela, clearly that was an agenda pushing the left agenda so to say. Looking at what you were striving for so where do you think or how do you think the media should be located?
MR MATAU: Yes Archbishop. My union is obviously a media union and we are in and out of the battlefield on a daily basis and some of the battles we have fought are gender issues, in the workplace and we have successfully championed the causes of female workers. We have, specifically, through our general secretary addressed a number of conferences, symposia and made numerous submissions on the issue of gender, championing the cause of equality.
MS MKHIZE: Chairperson, if I might ask your indulgence. I can understand in terms of job opportunities for people to make sure that women are represented, but I was just thinking, wondering whether you have consciously looked at, maybe it's not part of this institution, but what I was concerned about is whether you have in your workers empowerment come out with a strategy to embark on censoring whatever goes out to the public from a gender perspective?
MR PROCTOR: Chairperson, the question really goes to the heart of the problem that we face and that is how do you set up a media environment that makes sure that media professionals don't advance the agendas of sectorial interests and you know these questions obviously tax us as media professionals enormously. How do we make sure that we get advertising revenue without offending the advertisers. We don't want the advertisers to influence our programming decisions. At the same time how do we make sure that all the politicians are happy because every politician wants to use the media to report back to his boss and to his electorate as to what's going on. And as a media professional you sit in the middle of all these competing forces. We have been busy with a project recently and one of the ways that we have started approaching, dealing with this problem, is to go right back to the constitution. The constitution itself sets up a framework by which we, as South Africans, expect to live and interact with each other. It flows into the Bill of Rights and it flows into a long set of values that have been set up, Gender Commission and Rights Commissions and so forth. If we make all of these policy framework issues part-and-parcel of the context within which media professionals have to operate you've already gone a long way to making sure that the conduit of communicating information from information providers to the audience a much more clean environment than it has been in the past. That's one of the ways in which we can seek to achieve this balance in the middle. For our own part we were paying Hugh Masekela and Kite Semenya and all these people, not because we were really trying to advance any political agenda, they were good. The audience wanted to hear them. The SABC eventually started playing them because they found out that they were good. The SABC made political decisions, we didn't make political decisions, we just made audience-related decisions. And if the media also looks to its audience more and listens to what its audience wants to hear and see and doesn't presume that people out there that are reading newspapers, that are listening the radio, that are watching television are morons, they are not morons. The audience is a very discerning audience and the more opportunities the audience has to hear different points of view and channel (...indistinct) the better. For me as a broadcaster my shelf-life is exactly the last 30 seconds and if I broadcast a bad programme somebody is going to sit with a remote control and press the button and go to somebody else's channel. If there is only one channel and you have no choice, as we have had in the past you have a problem. But we are entering into an environment now where there is going to be a choice and if you don't deliver the goods the audience is going to remove you. They are the people that elected our politicians, they set up our constitution, they are the people that will decide on a daily basis. We don't get voted into office every four years as broadcasters, we get voted into office every single day by our listeners and viewers and if we listen to them and respond to them we will stay in office for a very long time.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very much. I have to indicate that we have a slight problem with scheduling and if you will agree with me, thank you very much, that we are going to take the tea break now, a 15 minute tea break and return about five to 11 because Radio - we are being manipulated - no, Radio 2000 starts at 11 and I think it is important that what is happening here gets a - Thank you for your understanding and for your agreement.
HEARING ADJOURNSON RESUMPTIONCHAIRPERSON: ...of you on listening to me and being so nice, especially with all those nice cakes and things that we have had to leave behind. Welcome Mr Raubenheimer, welcome. I will now hand over to Denzil Potgieter please. S A B C
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you Chairperson. Good morning Mr Raubenheimer. We are very happy to have you here this morning, thank you for coming. Before we take your testimony I am going to ask you to take the oath.
ADV POTGIETER: Yes certainly. We do have translation devices which can be used for people who don't follow Afrikaans. We were about to distribute them, I know that they are available and somebody was going to distribute them for us to people who need them.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Also Mr Chairman I have got some quotes here from old policy documents and quotes from talks, unfortunately I could not find the English document or the English file for some of these so I've got to quote some of these in Afrikaans, unfortunately.
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you, you may take your seat. We will just wait for a brief moment just to allow people to get hold of these translation devices. Can I in the meantime just explain the devices. Thank you very much, we will start with the testimony. Mr Raubenheimer thank you, welcome for attending. We are glad that you made the opportunity, that you went to some trouble of getting here. You had a long career in the SABC, a period of 25 years and you are still involved in the Corporation. We find that very useful to have you here. Could you perhaps by way of introduction sketch a brief background of your experiences within the Corporation to the present.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: I started in 1972 in the personnel department as a personnel officer. Then I attended the first television training course presented by the SABC in 1974. For a brief period I was a TV producer and director, presenter of two different actuality talk shows. And then from 1976 onwards I joined the radio news department as a news background writer, from '76 to '79 writer mainly of Nguni, Sotho news back-grounders and translating some news commentary talks. From '84 I was senior news commentary writer involved especially with translation of comment and - editorial comment. And then in '85 I was appointed editor, public affairs radio in charge of Radio Today, Update, the actuality shows on English radio, nowadays SAFM and also on the Afrikaans service Monitor and Spitstate, actuality programmes. I still had responsibility for comment. In '88 I was appointed executive editor news planning. In 1989 editor-in-chief of news strategy. News strategy meaning doing some environmental scanning because that wasn't a line function but it also meant planning the news division of that time along business lines. At that stage SABC was involved in establishing the different as business units. That briefly, I think, is an outline of my different positions.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: In 1990 I was appointed acting general manager of TSS Network. That was the old Top Sport surplus network of the SABC that was transformed into - that was my job at that stage, to transform that network into an educational channel. Later on it changed to NNTV, and at the moment I am general manager of SABC 3 which developed out of those two services.
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you very much. Now as you know what we are looking at is really the role of the SABC during our mandate period which as you know is 1960 to 1993, have you prepared a presentation that you want to make on that? If so, then I am going to ask you to do that and once you have done that I would have some questions and I am quite sure some of my colleagues would have questions as well.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: No I haven't prepared a fullscale presentation, what I would like to do as introduction to our discussion is just to outline some of the editorial guidelines within which we functioned at that time and then I think we should carry on with your questions. If required from me I would very much like to submit a written submission to the Committee, I'll do it.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Thank you. This is unfortunately where the Afrikaans will start because these documents that I collected are in Afrikaans at the moment and I couldn't trace the English versions, unfortunately. I think it is important as an introduction to this discussion to give an indication of what the policy framework was within which I myself and my colleagues functioned under those circumstances and I would like to read it to you, policy guidelines which were on three different levels. Firstly the provisions of the broadcasting policy of 1986 two quotations there read as follows: "That the Corporation will broadcast nothing that will disturb the peace of the good order which will endanger the safety of South Africa and its people; which will undermine the economy and the country's international position; promote revolutionary objectives or directly or indirectly lead to transgressions of the law." Secondly, "That the Corporation will be on the outlook for revolutionary strategy with unrest and violence to create an atmosphere for revolution. It does so without being a propaganda instrument for revolution or propaganda".Thus far the 1986 policy. Then the broader framework subscribed to by the Board of the SABC within which we functioned on a next tier or level. I would perhaps say that we should at the head of the daily guidelines read the following. "The maintenance and promotion of public order and the process of gradual adaptation in a peaceful manner to economic and social demands of the time; the counteracting of the revolutionary assault on the country and its peoples; and thirdly, the reconciliation among races and other interest groups as the only long term solution for a country which is currently torn apart". Then I would say that on the next tier of policy which we dealt with on a daily basis was the point of view of comment for and against certain matters. The editorial policy of comments or "Kommentaar " as the programme was called was outspoken against the following which I will give to you in English. "It took a stand against sanctions and the disinvestment campaign; destabilisation of education and in particular black education; violence and terrorism as political instruments for any group inside or outside the country; communism and socialism as political or economic policies; nationalisation of any business that could hamper the creation of welfare and employment opportunities". Simultaneously "Kommentaar" expressed itself in favour of the following matters, it's in English. "The creation of a democratic constitution providing for the rights of all groups in the multi-cultural South African society; the free market economy and the creation of work opportunities; improvement of education and educational opportunities for all South Africans; economic development of all sectors and groups; national reconciliation and initiatives that could contribute to it; structured negotiations between all representative leaders in South Africa; and national reconstruction through the elimination of under-development in social and economic development status". That in broad terms Mr Chair, sketches the policy framework within which we were functioning at the time. If you would allow me the opportunity at a later stage I would like to read a few more quotations to you from the last year or two of the existence of the "Kommentaar" division and of the comment, editorial comment programmes of the SABC, which in March 1993 was terminated at my recommendation. Thank you.
ADV POTGIETER: Can I perhaps just by way of introducing the discussion quote to you from material, submissions that were placed before us which reflects another view about the SABC and then ask you to comment on that. The first quote comes from a summary around the SABC that was placed before us by the Freedom of Expression Institute and I am just quoting one sentence from there. It says - "There is no doubt that by manipulating the news, blandly denying allegations, suppressing here, adding there, disinforming and one should lying and cheating, the SABC on both radio and TV managed to brainwash a substantial section of the white South African community, public, into believing the government's version of affairs and even supporting its policies and practices".That's the one view that was placed before us. Another view is taken from a submission that was made to the Steyn Commission of Inquiry. It says - "The South African Broadcasting has not fulfilled its responsibility to the South African community particularly with the introduction of its television service in 1976 by failing to investigate social and political issues vital to the future survival of South Africa and by implementing policy measures designed to either ensure that this kind of programme is not produced at all or ensuring that if the issue is given coverage only certain aspects of the issue are presented. The South African Broadcasting Corporation has misled the Republic of South Africa. It is misrepresented the South African situation to the community and it has exercised its propaganda monopoly to achieve this result". Now as you will appreciate those are two very strong views that are put with regard to the role of the SABC, what was your experience, how did you experience the process in view of this sort of comment that is made?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Mr Chair as you have justly stated those comments represent very strong points of view and it is difficult for me, on behalf of the whole of the SABC, because reference is made to more than just the news service, there are references to the whole of the SABC. Reference is also made to more than just those divisions for which I was responsible. It is therefore very difficult for me to comment on those statements and to reply to them except to say that it sounds to me like quite untested testimony. I would be prepared to deal with that for which I was responsible, for the actuality programmes and the editorial comments and the news background talks, those I would be prepared to subject to intense studies who would be interested in doing so. The intention with background talks and editorial comments was to give a well-considered point of view of the SABC as a national broadcaster under those circumstances which would then attempt to make a constructive contribution to the development and the reconciliation process in the country. As a consequence you will probably, not in the news background and the comments for which I was responsible, see any strong points of view which had not been considered very well and had not been able to consider the arguments in favour or against certain issues. I would, therefore, like to deny that that type of point of view, manipulating the news, lying and cheating, applied to those areas for which I was responsible.
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you for your answer in this regard Mr Raubenheimer. We would like to gain an idea, an impression of what the situation was. We know there was a certain statutory framework of legislation within which you had to work and the idea is to determine how the Corporation reacted in that milieu and against that background. As you stated you can only talk about those sections or divisions where you personally were involved. You were the head of the actuality programmes on radio, could you perhaps give us a more concrete idea of whether there were guidelines which you as head implemented and applied? Could you give us some stories which you would have refrained from using according to those guidelines in your programmes, just to give us a general feeling of what the situation was like?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: As I have stated I have given you the broad guidelines, I had no other guidelines which were applied in the section for which I was responsible, except perhaps additionally when the country itself applied emergency measures and legislation to which the media as a whole were subjected, in other words the electronic media as well as the press, my work as head of actuality programmes boiled down to the fact that for two hours each day, not it was substantially more, an hour in the morning and later on - let's say a total of three hours on Afrikaans and three hours on the English station where we broadcast programmes which involved news, hard news, first phase news bulletins, but then also contributions sent to us internationally and from our local representatives in the regions. It was naturally so that these contributions dealt with the current news events of the day or the day before. I remember only two instances, two very specific contributions which on the basis of current legislation at the time I had to censor and had to place an embargo on the broadcast of those two contributions. In both cases, both cases it was a matter where banned organisations in terms of the laws of the country at the time were quoted on meetings which had been held, particularly made certain statements and in this particular instance the ANC. In the case of sensitive contributions I was phoned in the morning, the editors of those programmes had the right themselves to compile those programmes as they saw fit, it was only in the mornings or in the course of the afternoon, as far as the afternoon broadcasts were concerned, when there was a doubt regarding the sensitivity of a certain contribution that they phoned me, this happened on a daily basis and there were normally one, two or three such contributions which were played to me over the telephone or I had to go to the specific studio and listen there. In the course of those few years during which I filled that position I remember two contributions which I had to prohibit from being broadcast in terms of the laws of the country at the time and they concerned meetings which had been held by ANC members which in terms of legislation of the time were banned.
ADV POTGIETER: I understand. Would you have allowed those contributions to be broadcast in the programmes what in terms of your personal experience have been the reaction of management or of the Corporation at the time should you have done something like that?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: I think it's quite a hypothetical question and it would naturally have depended on how the authorities in the country would have acted on the basis of the broadcast of the item which was contrary to the legislation at the time applying to the circumstances. I could well imagine receiving a call from my immediate superior asking me if I weren't aware of the legislation and the regulations within which we had to function at the time and I would have had to respond to this question.
ADV POTGIETER: Well that raises another issue and that is the matter of manipulation of censorship or whatever you wish to call it, interfering, the possibility thereof within the Corporation, what was your experience in this regard, regarding this type of issue? In other words what I am referring to is political intervention or interference within the daily business of the Corporation.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Mr Chair I am in the ironical situation that in the previous SABC I was not in a senior management position and in the new SABC I have landed in such a position, I therefore did not form part of the highest tier of meetings that were held and discussions that were entered into. I was on middle management level and in that respect I was an executive officer carrying out policy rather than a formulator of policy at the time. I at times could cognisance of calls that had been made to the SABC, the most famous incident, obviously, is that where Freek Robinson was involved, but I was also aware of other discussion where the head of news of the SABC at the time, Mr Jan van Zyl received call from government officials. And I think I will be forgiven if I say that Mr van Zyl, in many instances, differed from the people who approached him with these requests. Here, for example, I have a document which gives a good indication of the type of difference of opinion that existed under those circumstances between the news division of the SABC and the government of the day. With all respect I don't think it's the end of that type of scenario which I will sketch to you now. This concerned whether the SABC's news division did justice to all the initiatives which the government had launched and developed at the time, in other words whether the SABC gave enough publicity to that which the government of the day regarded a noteworthy information which the public had to take cognisance of and a specific request was addressed to the SABC to accommodate Parliamentary broadcasts in the actuality programmes of the day which followed after the eight o'clock news in the evening, and the SABC's point of view, and it happened to be that of Mr Jan van Zyl, the head of news at the time that that sort of programme, a review of the Parliamentary activities of the particular day was not justified or justifiable for accommodation from a news point of view in the news actuality programme, but that it should be accommodated later on in the evening by way of a Parliamentary broadcast programme. And I don't think it's an over-statement to say that it was a very intense debate at the time, that is the kind of discussion of which I was aware at the time. Simultaneously I could state to you that during all the years when I worked a the SABC, from 1972 to the present, not once did I receive a call from a politician in a prominent position who required from me or who tried to instruct me to give a certain point of view, reflect that, or an argument or to express it in the commentary. I was involved, for example, in the labour reform initiatives which were carried out at the time of the Wiehahn Commission. I had quite a number of discussions in the course of my work because my so-called beat at the time was labour legislation, I had quite a number of discussions with Professor Wiehahn himself and with the then Minister of Labour, Mr Fanie Botha. I think it would also have been true to say that he sought as much publicity as possible for those initiatives which the government had taken at the time to reform labour legislation and to bring collective bargaining into the market place as a system but an instruction or even a strongly-worded request, in all my years at the SABC I never received directly from any high up politician.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: I am aware of a colleague of mine, Mr Malan Otto, who was then head of radio news who received such a request, instruction, it was an instruction which the Minister at the time, and I honestly can't remember his name, referred to the head of news and Mr Malan's point of view at the time was you are speaking to the wrong person, I must reflect the news of the day and the Minister was referred to the head of news. And what happened after that I cannot testify to.
ADV POTGIETER: Yes we always have a problem of limited time. But what about bodies such as the Broederbond? That is a body the name of which arises within the context of the SABC and the propaganda context also of manipulation, what is your experience in that regard?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Mr Chair it is already public record, knowledge, that I was a member of the Broederbond for approximately until 1990. In numerous discussions with a journalist who is also present here, Mr Serfontein, I stated that I am of the opinion that the role of this organisation was over-estimated by quite a number of people. The activities of that organisation with which I had been involved were limited to a monthly meeting at the house of one of the members of a certain group which varied in size from five to approximately 12 or 15 people. Their study documents were dealt with was a rather theoretical type of meeting which dealt with arguments over issues of the day and very little action stemmed from these meetings. Another element was the annual meeting of this organisation where there was normally a speaker dealing with a current issue, addressed the meeting in this regard, and replied to certain questions in this regard. I never returned from one of these meetings with either an instruction or a very strong idea that I had to follow a certain direction or promote a certain line of thought in terms of my work at the SABC. I think it would also be fair to state that during the last two years of my membership of that organisation the majority of the study documents which were circulated dealt more with the promotion of the reformation process than hampering it. If you wish so, some of the quotations which I wanted to read to you, if you will allow me the time, from the comments of the last few years you could possibly see as a reflection of some of the study documents because they dealt with the essential nature of finding a long term permanent solution for this country because everybody was acutely aware of the problems experienced by the country at the time And in a certain sense I am speaking out of turn because I am no longer a member of that organisation but I think I have to state that in the study documents of particularly the last year there was a more positive and constructive foundation than anything else to the negative.
ADV POTGIETER: We know Mr Raubenheimer that time is limited, there are many interesting matters which one could reflect, but another aspect before I conclude, could you say something about the State Security Council, the involvement of the SABC in this regard, its institutions etc?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Mr Chair for a period of approximately one year, not quite a full year in my capacity as chief editor new strategy and environmental survey, I was requested on a two-weekly basis to attend a State Security Council sub-committee, the so-called Stratcom Committee. It is quite difficult to talk about this because the impression had already been created in the media that Stratcom would be behind many of the incredible deeds that were committed in the name of state security which served before this Commission and to which was testified in front of this Commission. The Stratcom meetings which I experienced, and I don't know whether I was selectively allowed to some of these meetings because I received notices and invitations to the meetings which I attended, but the meetings which I attended were nothing more and nothing less than information gathering efforts. They were attended by representatives which appeared to me to come from the total spectrum of state government departments, not only the police, the defence force, military information, military intelligence. There were also representatives from all other State departments. These meetings took the form of presentations, whether graphic or otherwise, regarding conditions in the country, conditions in black schools, conditions in the field of the manufacturing industry, the labour sphere, and these meetings were used to get feedback on information regarding what was happening in the country in total. I experienced these meetings as nothing more than an effort to create a forum somewhere for the input of information. As far as the State departmental representatives dealing with this information at a later stage was concerned, I don't know, whether they launched follow-up actions based on these informations, information, I don't know, but should these actions have taken place were definitely not discussed where I as an observer acting on behalf of the SABC, I don't know about anything following from this. There were no follow-up actions formulated there but it was simply an information-gathering meeting. I take it that the intention was, and that was the background that was sketched to me when I was asked to attend the meetings, it was that in that timeframe limited information was available to the news media and that was probably the greatest problem if I had to focus on one specific problem during the whole period that I was involved in journalism and that is the fact that selective information, inadequate information was given through to the news media. I saw this and I take it that my superiors who saw this, who wanted me to use this opportunity, regarded it as an opportunity gain more information about what was going on.
ADV POTGIETER: Then just to conclude, I am very sorry time is always a problem, but we don't live in an ideal world, apparently the situation within which the SABC operated was also not an ideal situation, what would you say was the main problem, or were the main problems experienced and how can one avoid this kind of situation in the future? Just a brief statement to this effect please.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Before concluding and answering that question may I just raise something which I haven't mentioned, namely, that even "Kommentaar" or comment, or editorial comment, which for many years were regarded as the propaganda mouthpiece of the SABC in my opinion not only had a negative role for those who did experience it as very negative, earlier on in the day it was referred to by Bishop Tutu I think, it was stated that couldn't the SABC instead of referring to terrorism and revolutionary activities have used more toned-down terminology, because it was part of the struggle to some people and therefore this type of terminology choice could be experienced as very negative, but the policy guidelines which I read to you earlier within which we operated and also the terminology that the SABC used, yet I would state for the record that editorial comment and "kommentaar" over the past few years, or the last few years when I was responsible made an undeniable positive contribution to making the people of this country aware of the fact that it was essential to have legitimate, permanent negotiations. That it was essential to have leaders set free, legitimate leaders who were in prison and similar statements were made in those programmes. This was not necessarily government policy at the time but these were things that were requirements to get a process on the way to a long term solution underway. If you would allow me then I would later on like to repeat this by way of a presentation that I will make to you. To return to your question about what the greatest problems were and how I would recommend they be avoided in the future, Mr Chair that's a very difficult question because the circumstances were so totally different from the present. I have stated that one of the problems I experienced was the fact that there was a very meagre and inadequate flow of information of what was really going on in the country that was available to the journalists of the time. Our most important sources of news for the writing of these editorial comments and other background talks were the news items to which the SABC subscribed, the agencies like SAPA etc, which came through per fax on a daily basis. And I must admit that one of our most important sources of news were the newspapers. But the real news as it had come to the fore before this Commission I didn't have ready access to, and in hindsight you may accuse me of being very naive, but these were the sources of the news available to us at the time, and that I would like to think as the single most important shortcoming and problem at the time which we as journalists experienced. And if I could then here plead for something, whether it be the SABC or the written news media, must gain free and full access to a free flow of news and that in no way, by way of legislation or otherwise, any limitation should again be placed or a hindrance be placed in the way of the free flow of news at grassroots level throughout the country. Secondly, it is obviously true that we functioned within the legislation of the country at the time, the emergency measures of the time which were the product of what was then experienced as the total onslaught, and as one of my predecessors, people who acted here before me would request that whatever we do in this country we should see to it that that kind of emergency measure will never apply again to the media, so that the media will not be hampered in that manner again. I was a middle management official at the time, not a senior manager and it is therefore very difficult to talk further about the internal organisation or speculate about how things could have progressed differently and perhaps I should stop at those few comments.
MR LEWIN: Mr Raubenheimer thank you very much for answering the questions. Could I ask some very specific questions and also one broad question because what puzzles me from your testimony is that you give the impression of, I would almost call it, a culture of comfort within the SABC which you have described in terms of the guidelines and how you reacted to them and how you executed them. And this was a culture of comfort at a time when the country was actually in flames. And how do you square the two? How do you square that contradiction? I mean did you find yourself self-censoring, if I could ask that question, censoring yourselves?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Mr Chairman I think it would be too strong to say that we all functioned within a culture of comfort. I think in any news organisation within the broad framework of that organisation there are opportunities for completely various points of view. I was aware, and I'm still aware of people within the SABC's news department whose political points of view were completely divergent. One of the points of difference between the SABC's news department and the council of the SABC is about reflecting the degree of violence in the country. The news department's point of departure, and I can speak on their behalf because I was involved with the news department, the news department's point of departure was that the public should be informed about the violence in the country. The council of the SABC with or without the intervention of the government, which I do not know about, they posed certain questions to the news department regarding the handling of the violence on radio and television. In other words what I am trying to say is that there were certain arguments between the operational journalists of the day and the policy makers of the day about where the boundary was between the necessary reflection of news including violence which was reflectively amply in radio and TV, and on the other hand propaganda in favour of violence. As far as I know there was an intense debate about where the boundary was. The standpoint of the news department was that the public should be fully informed, they should know what was going on and this does not mean that the reflecting violence through the news agency of the SABC would be endorsed, but that it was a necessity to portray it to the public. You may experience it as a culture of comfort but within that environment I have described there was a certain degree of difference between where the boundaries should be.
MR LEWIN: Could I ask, then you talk about this borderline between the two, do you think that - well two questions, do you think that politics, your own politics, your own political awareness or your own political affiliations plays a part in news? And then going on from that do you think that the SABC's news coverage, say during the eighties, the mid-eighties, do you think that that was satisfactory, either thinking of it at the time or thinking of it now looking back?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Mr Chairman I can say unequivocally that I think the SABC's handling of news during those times you are referring to was completely inadequate. But I have also sketched the circumstances within which we had to operate and the absence of the reality, of the political reality during those circumstances. If you would ask me, disregarding the framework or irrespective of the framework of that time to look back in hindsight of the influence of the flow of news from the SABC to the public, in other words if you are asking me to practice hindsight, I would like to state categorically that I think it was a tragedy that the public was not informed as to what actually happened in this country. But then again that does not apply only to the SABC, at least to a certain extent and I wouldn't like to elaborate on that, at least to a certain extent it also applies to the print and other media of this country. But certainly that was a tragic part of our history.
MR LEWIN: Because I am surprised, thank you Mr Raubenheimer, I am just surprised when you talk about the lack of access you had to news sources, you mention SAPA, you mention Reuters, now this was at a time when you had large numbers of journalists coming in for instance from overseas who were able to go back outside and make the documentaries, write the news stories which were actually condemned within the SABC as being anti-South African, so they were able to discover sources coming as strangers to the country which people within the country were not able to find. And of course there was the local press, the so-called opposition press which was very often broadcasting or sending out stories. If I could just ask one final question. Human rights is something that we are very, very concerned about now, it's become a buzz phrase but it is very important, can you remember any instance where you uncovered, as a news department, uncovered excesses of human rights abuses which you then followed up?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Well it's difficult to - I need to come back to your question on neutrality of news, but it is very difficult for me to now recall a single news event that we followed up. We did refer in some of the news talks about the way that the police acted in some of those instances, but I must admit in very mild terms. I would like to admit that you would have liked to have seen it in much stronger terms than the SABC actually did it.
CHAIRPERSON: Yes alright, please. Well yes we are trying to get to some truth and to be also able to form as clear and as accurate a picture as possible, particularly for what we want to see happen in the future if there are things that we have got to learn, that we have got to find out what the mistakes were that were made. Dr Boraine.
MR RAUBENHEIMER: Well first of all the SABC board was constituted by the government of the day and was responsible to Parliament as you well know Sir. Now that in itself I think can be taken in your terms as saying that the SABC was not independent, but then that exactly applies to the present SABC. So what I am saying is I think if we want to talk about independence of a national broadcaster, such as the SABC, we need to go and look not only at the overriding structure of that organisation and how it fits in with the governing body of the land, but also I think you need to go and look at, I would like to call it the ethos within the news department of that particular organisation, the measure of autonomy that journalists are or are not allowed within that organisation. I don't think, as far as I know news organisations, and I have been out of news now for a year or two or three, I don't think, there exists news organisations without policy guidelines, not newspapers, not radio, not television, not as far as I know. In that sense news is manipulated, controlled if you wish, but then I think it depends on the culture of that particular country and the particular news organisation.In America for instance there's a much more open culture in the handling of news than I have seen at the SABC during my times when I was there. And, ja, I wouldn't like to comment on the present situation because I am not part of the news division anymore. But the fact of the matter what I am basically saying to you is, yes, there were controls, there were regulations, but within those an individual also had some limited scope for doing his own thing and saying his own thing. Can I just quote you this, and this was from one of the last news commentaries that I was responsible for - "In this stage of South Africa's political development it is extremely important that developments should be made in avoiding hindrances regarding negotiations, and if negotiations between representative leaders cannot progress it's because certain leaders are detained. This has been accepted for a long time. Some of the most prominent of these leaders is President Mandela. To reconciling with the objective of peaceful development he redefined his policy. Mandela has been involved with the broad preparatory work for negotiations".But in spite of and within all the regulations and guidelines of the SABC's news operation I, as Louis Raubenheimer and as the head of that department at that stage had the liberty of saying to the South African public but look people we've got to do something, we've got to remove this issue in order to get negotiations, and structured negotiations going. That's maybe the best I can answer your question at this stage.
DR BORAINE: At the risk of incurring the wrath of my Chairperson here just one short follow-up to try to understand where you are coming from. When I asked the question or made the statement that it seemed to me that what you were arguing was that the SABC was not independent it was putting it quite mildly. The impression I get is that the SABC's function was to strengthen the government of the day and weaken the opposition to that government of the day as a broad mandate, and that only towards the late eighties, if you like, I'm not sure where that particular quotation comes from, I would imagine right, very close towards the negotiation period which of course reflected again the government's position which had changed its view quite drastically. Now am I completely wide off the mark when I suggest that the SABC was in fact by its choice, by its omission, by its commission, in broad terms supporting the policy of the government of the day to the detriment of any kind of change which the vast majority of South Africans were demanding?
MR RAUBENHEIMER: I am able to do it very briefly Bishop. I think it would be daft to try and - can I say it in Afrikaans, I think it will be extremely shortsighted to say that the SABC in the 1980's, not in broad terms, and you also referred to these broader terms, that they did not support the policy of the government of the day. It does not mean that the news department agreed with the government in all respects, or even that they simply took their cue as to the reportage of news and the writing of these comments from the government. But I think it would be extremely shortsighted to argue that the SABC in broader terms did not support the government of the day's policies regarding the problems of the day.
CHAIRPERSON: May I crave your indulgence and suggest that in order for us to get this three, if we could reduce the input to about 20 minutes, I mean the total of the next, is that okay. We will see. Thank you very much. Mr Briscoe. S A B C
DR BORAINE: Thank you Chairperson. Mr Briscoe may I add my own words of welcome to you. Thank you very much for being willing to participate in these hearings. I wonder if you would mind quite shortly telling us of the position that you held and how you tried to exercise that responsibility during your years with the SABC and then I will follow up with some questions. Thank you.
MR BRISCOE: Mr Chairman I would like to thank you for the opportunity of contributing to the important work of the Commission. My background is in the media, television, film, photography, public relations, marketing and journalism. My first article in a newspaper occurred when I was at the age of 12 and I have never stopped writing, and I have been making films throughout the world since the age of 20. I was running my own public relations consultancy in Sandton City in the early 1970's and I was head-hunted by the SABC to join the Corporation to set up English language television in this country. I was head of children's programmes, head of magazine programmes and then later head of documentaries. Mr Chairman I think I can sum up those times, those years in a few words by saying it was the best of times and it was the worst of times. I saw myself as the head of documentaries, my prime responsibility to produce programmes of the highest calibre, of world standard, and I feel that today I have tremendous admiration and pride in the 12 producers who worked with me in that department. We produced more than 90 documentaries a year, a tremendous output and we will never see their quality again. My responsibility was to actually show the viewers of South Africa the country as they have never seen it before. We brought our programmes to fruition on a very broad spectrum, providing a very balanced output of programmes. Certainly some of them were of a very sensitive nature, but I upheld the principles of documentary production by ensuring that we made programmes that were not only technically of the highest standard, but did their job in bringing the country to the viewers. And I mentioned that it was also the most difficult of times, the most terrifying of times because we were very seldom as a department out of the media. It was a time when television was feared by the government and also feared by the Corporation, the little bioscope in the corner. And what was documentaries department going to do about that in showing the country to the nation. And as an English language television service, documentary service, we were viewed with some suspicion by the hierarchy. We always had the hierarchy in the SABC on hot bricks and for that I am delighted because we did our job as documentary producers. It is remarkable to think now back more than 25 years that where we had scenes in a documentary of a white person shaking hands with a black person that had to be edited out of the programme. We made a documentary for example of looking at the Afrikaans community in this country. We wanted a viewpoint from a black journalist. We interviewed him outside the Voortrekker Monument. It was a superb interview. That had to be removed. The point I want to make Mr Chairman is that as a documentary department we made the programmes that we felt that needed to be made, but there was a rule within the Corporation that said that if I considered that some of the programmes were of a sensitive nature in content they had to be viewed by the head of television. If he felt it had to be viewed by the director of television the programme went higher up the line and usually it meant that programmes were cut or edited, and in one case actually shelved. My producer, Mr Adrian Herrings, who is now doing very well in Australia, produced a programme in our department on black education, it was explosive programme, an explosive programme and we wanted to have it broadcast because it actually threw light on all the evils in the system. I condoned the programme for broadcast at my level, but because it was of a sensitive nature I had to take it up the line to the head of television. Then it went from there to the director of television where it was actually aborted. The view of the Corporation at that point was that the programme was unbalanced and therefore should not be screened, and that programme has never been screened. There were many occasions like that which made our role as documentary producers extremely difficult. But at the same time I would like to say that as a department we produced some of the finest hours of documentary this country has ever seen, and I do hope that those programmes are still in the Corporation's archives.
DR BORAINE: Thank you very much. In other words you couldn't make, even though you were head of the English documentary department, you couldn't make the final decision and somebody - I mean who kept on telling you not to go ahead when you really yourself were prepared to do that?
MR BRISCOE: I established the concepts for the department in association with my producers, I drew parameters within which we would operate. When I say parameters I mean conceptualising a documentary series which may look at our indigenous peoples of South Africa. We produced a wonderful series with Dr Peter Bekker on our tribal customs of South Africa fulfilling one of my principles for the department of actually bringing the country to the people at home. We did that admirably well, exceptionally well. Where I personally felt a documentary programme was touching on sensitive issues of a political nature which I knew that the Corporation would be very concerned about I would then take that programme, I would condone it in terms of its technical content and so forth, I would then take that completed programme up the line to the head of television and I would say this programme I think is of a sensitive nature you need to see it before broadcast. At that point very often certain cuts and edits would be demanded in the programme. I remember very clearly a programme we made on Baragwanath Hospital by Mr Kevin Harris, also another gifted producer, which touched on life in Soweto, a wonderful programme, a one hour special, but in the beginning of the programme Mr Harris commented on the Black Consciousness Movement and I said an amber light was on. I said the Corporation needs to see that programme before broadcast. I condoned the programme for broadcast. I took it up the line and the few minutes reference to the Black Consciousness Movement had to be cut out of the programme. I gave that instruction to my producer. My producer unfortunately, if I may so, deceived me by saying that he would do the edit, the edit was not made, the programme went on the air that night and while it was running I received a telephone call at my home from the big boss in television saying what the hell is going on. That programme should not have been broadcast without that cut. I had to rush back into the Corporation at night to watch this programme going on the air but it was too late. The very next morning I was given an instruction by the head of television that Mr Harris was to be fired immediately. I took my stand on that because I believe very strongly, I admire somebody who takes a stand on an issue, but here we had a case where I was personally deceived as head of department and I couldn't trust this producer anymore and so he was fired immediately. But that sort of situation occurred within the documentary department and in the corridors of power which made life at times very, very difficult indeed.
DR BORAINE: What you are saying in effect is that you really had to watch your back because you yourself went along and asked for permission to - whereas if you had gone ahead perhaps you could have got away with it?
MR BRISCOE: ...under which we were working certainly if you wanted to earn a headline in the Rand Daily Mail or in a newspaper you would go ahead and the next day be fired. So it's purely a question of whether you wanted to do that or not. I preferred, I was quite happy actually to sacrifice two minutes of the programme to put 58 minutes on the air, but I wasn't happy about the deceit from the producer. I actually encouraged my producers at all times not to engage in any self-censorship. Rather produce the programmes you want to make, bring them up to my table where I could actually view them and see them but the production must come from within, from us, and let those final decisions be taken by - at a higher level.
MR BRISCOE: As far as I know that is absolutely correct. If I may say so Mr Chairman I did have, as I said earlier, very bright, very talented producers working with me. Some were very highly politicised if I may say so and they saw their role as actually working in a sort-of fifth column within the Corporation. Now I didn't see myself as heading a fifth column in the Corporation in producing political documentaries. Even so we produced enough programmes to have the hierarchy on hot bricks all the time and in the media. We were very seldom out of the media in terms of the programmes we were making. And I felt at the time that my producers were somewhat unrealistic. They would often come to me and say they wanted complete freedom to make the programmes they wanted to make and the programmes had to go on the air as they made them. In my experience, when you go back to the times of the 1970's, when this country was subjected to the total onslaught and there was bubbling insurrection from within the country that freedom was a fantasy, was totally unrealistic. In my view Mr Chairman there is no such thing as complete freedom. If you have complete freedom you have licence to do what you like, so there had to be some sort of controls, when I say controls, in terms of quality and content at my particular level. It was up to my judgement and from the information I got from higher up in the Corporation it was up to me to decide whether I should take certain programmes up for approval.
DR BORAINE: Mr Briscoe you prepared and broadcast quite a lot of material on the South African Defence Force, was that because you felt that in line with the total onslaught you supported basically the total strategy to offset that?
MR BRISCOE: The conditions at the time I remember very, very clearly. Around about the mid-seventies the documentaries, the heads of department, particularly documentaries and news were called to the underground headquarters of the military in Pretoria. During this briefing we were told what the Communist strategy was against South Africa. We were shown in very graphic terms that international Communism was planning to take over Angola, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, cutting South Africa off from the rest of Africa. Once that was accomplished the final onslaught will be against South Africa. At no time was I, as head of department, told you shall make a programme about the military and our preparedness against this onslaught. But of course there were strong hints and suggestions as to what we should do as heads of news or heads of documentaries department. I actually didn't see anything wrong in producing a few programmes showing the country's military preparedness. We produced two one hour documentaries, one on the South African Navy and one on military manoeuvres in the Kalahari and Northwest Cape. Both excellent programmes and not particularly punting any point of view but obviously from my point of view I was happy to show the country that no matter what happened the country was ready.
DR BORAINE: Thank you. Did you never worry or consider and perhaps now in hindsight, bearing in mind that the SADF was - consisted of the white South Africans and a great deal of their work was done inside South Africa rather than on the borders or across the borders, in fact I think you actually made programmes of this defence force demonstrating their capability, as you put it, inside South Africa, the Karoo and places like that, did you not ever wonder or now think back and wonder if this did not contribute towards the glorification of the government of the day's determination at all costs to protect their privilege and therefore incite the possibility of greater violence in South Africa?
MR BRISCOE: Mr Chairman that didn't occur to me at all. I think at the time the South African public was under a barrage of fear reporting, in the print media as well, about the so-called total onslaught against South Africa. It was a very, very real threat against this country, particularly if you went underground and had your commanders and generals telling you what was going to happen, very, very serious indeed. I therefore decided that we would as a department make a contribution but it would be fairly neutral, in other words we would do a documentary on their military manoeuvres and we would show how prepared we were in the South African Navy and leave it at that. We made two programmes only. I was quite satisfied that we had done our bit for the Corporation in terms of its requests and regulations and so forth and I felt also that we had actually done our best in making the South African viewing public aware of the military preparedness in this country. It didn't occur to me that we would be glorifying the South African Defence Force. And of course you know one has to take into account that we certainly couldn't produce the documentaries that would seek to undermine the government of the day. I don't think that would be tolerated by any network anywhere in the world.
DR BORAINE: My final question which tries to take this just one step further. You will know better than most of us the, because of your own experience and skills and history, of the documentaries that were made in Germany by Riefenstahl during the thirties which supported the German regime at the time and in the minds of some, not necessarily all, assisted the Nazi regime which sought to overthrow the world, civilised world, the Western world, call it what you will, now were you using that as a kind of a model as to how you yourself would attempt to not undermine the government but undermine those who differed with the government?
MR BRISCOE: Not at all Mr Chairman. We produced those two documentaries on the military manoeuvres and the South African Navy purely with a view of indicating to the public of South Africa that as far as the total onslaught against South Africa was concerned South Africa had some power to hit back. That's all. Linie Riefenstahl's documentaries are by the way are absolute classics and they are studied today very closely by every documentary producer, they are brilliant, absolutely brilliant, but in recent interviews with Linie Riefenstahl she made out that she was just a film maker, a documentary producer in love with the medium and doing her best. She brought into her programmes elements of documentary that have never been seen before. She was absolutely brilliant at her task. She was doing her job and doing it exceptionally well.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chair. Now is it fair to say, in line with your thinking that there can never be complete freedom of the media, the media coverage, that when once you were given to understand the threat that a section of South African society was subjected to from outside you yourself took a conscious position to support the view of the generals?
MR BRISCOE: Mr Chairman I am actually in love with the television and film medium, I am a film maker and I choose to be part of the Corporation. If I am not happy about working in television and working in mainline television, and as I said earlier it was the best time to be in television, at the start up of this magic box, it was a wonderful time to be in television. It was the only time to be in television. Those other factors never entered my head for a moment. We were out to make programmes to the very best of our capability and I believe that we produced world class programmes in their own right. So those sort of political factors did not enter my mind at all. I am not a political animal.
MR NTSEBEZA: Is it so that even if one accepts that, and I accept it for the moment for purposes of being fair to you, you were conscious that the programmes that you were producing were one-sided projecting the viewpoint of the South African regime's military establishment and carrying on and actually carrying across to the South Africa public that they are fighting a faceless threat in the form of a Communist threat, a terrorist threat without your programmes actually revealing that the men and women who were being deployed on our borders were actually deployed to fight not foreigners but nationalists, men and women who were born and bred in this country in the war of liberation. Well you nod, it is not going into the record.
MR BRISCOE: Well once again I must say that those factors did not occur to me at all. But it's quite clear that any government, any government of the day under threat of whatever sort, internally or externally, will do all it can to stay in power, and I put that to you to any country in the world. So therefore, obviously, television with its powerful message of being able to influence the minds of people, certainly suggestions were made within the Corporation that certain programmes should be made.
MR NTSEBEZA: Just one last question. Just to test that. You know in some of our investigations we have tried to find out to what extent the war in protection of South Africa and South African citizens was carried on by the SADF and there has been controversies about some of the operations like for instance the Kasina operation and there have been claims and counter-claims. Some of the people who were involved there have told me in the course of my investigations that even though they were told that they were attacking a Swapo military camp who they found there were pregnant women, children, and they just butchered them. Now as head of television news did you bring across that facet, that aspect of the might of the South African Defence Force, that they were indiscriminate in their butchering of those whom they perceived as the enemies of the State, whether they were pregnant women, children, to the extent that the word had gone across that in that particular camp we are dealing with terrorists who should be dealt with and be exterminated wherever they could be found, that they kill them without taking into account that they could have captured them? Now I hear you love making documentaries and all that, was that aspect shown to the South African public as well?
MR BRISCOE: No certainly not, and as I said before my department was only responsible for making those two programmes. But without a doubt there was insurrection, there was war, war threats, war being taken place in Southern Africa and I don't think anybody present here today will say war is a pleasant thing, it's terrible. I come to mind now, bring to mind the St James Church massacre which was appalling, absolutely appalling, war is terrible, war is dreadful, and any government I think facing a sort of threat of annihilation would do its utmost to stay in power. That to me is just realism.
MR NTSEBEZA: The only difference with St James massacre of course is that it has been aired liberally and there was no attempt to hide the ugly face of that sort of incident from the people of South Africa so that the people must make their own judgements. Thank you.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you Chairperson for having insight. I will just ask two questions but related. Just for the sake of clarifying what you have said I just want in your own words to tell us what did you hope to achieve by making a conscious decision to join SABC especially at the time when you did in 1974? And a related question really is just that you seem to argue that there was no political agenda in what you were doing but the examples you make of all the work which you took up for censorship is like you did a good job. In most instances whenever you wanted to check that had to be altered so I just want your view in that.
MR BRISCOE: Well to answer the first question, being a film maker myself I had always had film making and television in my belly as it were, so when television was about to be launched in South Africa I was quite sure that I was going to be in line to join television and so I joined the Corporation in 1974 and closed down my PR consultancy in Sandton City because I wanted to be part of the television medium. There was no ulterior motive whatsoever, I just loved to be part of television and loved making films. So it was an opportunity that I grasped with both hands. Your second question please?
MS MKHIZE: Ja the second question really relates to what you have said that, exactly what you are saying that there was no political agenda. But earlier on you had referred to quite a number of things which you said you had to take up so that it could be checked as to its appropriateness and in most instances whatever you took up to your seniors was altered in one or another, so it's like you were a gatekeeper of what is politically appropriate and you were doing a good job because whatever you were suspicious of was not acceptable. So that's the ambiguity which I hope you can clarify for us as to what exactly are you communicating, no political agenda but in real practice it's like there was an active political screening process going on in your operations.
MR BRISCOE: Mr Chairman the Corporation obviously had codes of conduct, it had certain regulations and so on for governing television and the sort of subject matter that was sensitive and which had to be debated higher up the line. So as the head of department I was aware of that. But it's not only political matter that was sensitive. We produced a documentary on one particular occasion on wildlife and pets and animals and there was a scene in it in which we showed dead animals being put into an incinerator. I actually demanded a cut of that scene from the producer because that was an insensitive scene to put on television. So there were other aspects, not only political. My particular role as head of the department was to ensure that there was maximum technical quality in terms of content and production. So I personally as a head of department I did not come into television with a hidden agenda and I've never had a hidden agenda. But certainly within the Corporation there were certain rules and customs and regulations that had to be followed.
CHAIRPERSON: Thank you very, very much. It is going to be of considerable assistance to us as we try to describe what took place but much more importantly as I keep saying what we would want to recommend about the kinds of things that should happen in a public broadcaster, the letting people know what is happening in their country, being able to tell the stories of wars in Angola which were not described in South Africa. But thank you very, very much, we are most grateful. Despite our efforts at stopping certain Commissioners from being too loquacious we have not succeeded entirely and Professor van Zyl would you agree to stand down for after lunch and let's just have one more - thank you very much. Denzil will you please.... S A B C
MS MKHIZE: Sir welcome. I don't know how you would prefer to present your views before Commissioners or you can just highlight the areas which you would like to talk to and allow me to ask you a few questions.
MR KHATHIDE: I started working for the SABC on the 1st of July 1982. Between that time and now I worked in a number of departments. At the very onset I became a producer that made programmes running or moving called documentaries, magazine and directing news in the studio, working in the final control, directing a variety of live programmes. The highlight of those programmes I remember in 1984 were referred to as the TV2 Tjikelele)?). So my experience moves from producing magazines to directing news. That gave me experience of knowing how SABC internally operated and how the higher structures related to the juniors, and how information-giving was managed. That is in a nutshell. I will continue to give a whole range of my submission if you will permit me to do so. If you are now in a position to ask questions based on this synopsis I would give answers to those.
MS MKHIZE: Really I won't like you to feel rushed. I have thought you have highlighted one thing where, how you joined the organisation and how you moved on to directing the news, but here you have identified issues which gave you cause for concern. I don't know whether you would like to talk to them, briefly.
MR KHATHIDE: From the very outset when we were trained what was very evident was the manner in which facilities were separated based on the discretion of the manager in that department whose duty it was to prepare any new employee to be skilful in making television programmes. The discrepancy was in a number of aspects. There were different classes for different races. There was one class for - like I trained as a producer, one class for black producers and then another for white producers. And the other discrepancy was in the form of equipment used. Needless to say of course and in line with the apartheid policy processes blacks were given older machines to work with, under-exposed films as examples of what one would do, but at that point one would not know if this was under-exposed but as one learned and was able to make the differences between the two I could tell that the examples I was given were preparing me to be an inferior type of a producer compared to my white counterpart. The other discrepancies were in the form of facilities and amenities. There were different toilets for blacks as well as there were different ones for whites. The same went with regard to canteens. The same went with the accessibility of other facilities and recreation. For instance you all know that there is a SABC NSO, National Symphony Orchestra, no black had access to it, only whites had. Even the choral part of it which is referred to as the SABC choir you wouldn't dare want to be a member of that choir if you were black. As a producer I had to travel all over the country making programmes. This pertained to when I was a second phase journalist, that is doing in-depth news. You would be booked some accommodation and all the time the types of hotel you were booked in would be inferior to those that whites would be booked in. Back here, back home in SABC, facilities would be booked, of course that is post-production facilities like editing and as a black you would be given unholy hours if you understand what we mean. Unholy hours would be those hours ranging from 12 o'clock to 6 o'clock in the morning. Consistent with this separate type of situation was the sport department which was divided into three duplicated types of programme making. You would have sport in TV1, sport in TV2 and sport in TV3, duplicating of facilities, duplicating of manpower, duplicating of time and money. With regard to that highlight I mentioned earlier on, that is Tjikelele, early 1984 here in South Africa came a certain Dr Professor Zeitel(?) who is a world-acclaimed television book writer. When in the country he made it clear that TV2 Tjikelele, in spite of it being quite new in the field, led by or handled by blacks, were "cracking it". In our mind it appeared that the powers that be were weary of that kind of positive comment of the programme that was black led because immediately after this comment there was transferred a white producer from TV1 to overseeing what was done by this programme that was said to be "cracking it". We regarded SABC, till of course recently, as what one would call an Afrikaner homeland. You have to have a correct surname to move up the ladder in terms of promotion as well as in terms of filling new posts as an outsider. If you are a black you would not even hope to be a lowest level manager save for the duplication of course of that first level manager which was called then editorial producer which I once was. That was the highest one as a black would go up the ladder here at SABC. Afrikaner homeland in that while it is true that at the manager level there were English speakers but their mobility upward was also limited to that level. From a level beyond that up to the director general, as it was called then, and they now call it Group Chief Executive, you would see only, and only Afrikaans-related surnames. We also had to live with correspondence which was mainly in Afrikaans. If you were unfortunate not to have a command in that kind of a language you were doomed. There was a flood of this Afrikaans correspondence in spite of SABC having claimed bilingualism which when you were interviewed it would be made clear that SABC was bilingual, meaning you had to be proficient in both English and Afrikaans. There was this atrocious kind of regulations we lived through. My colleagues who are here today I believe as I am alluding to it, are beginning to think that I am referring to, of course I do, Section 14. Under that section you would be fired unceremoniously without being given a reason so long as the manager suspects that your ideological convictions were not in line with the government of the day. SABC did not mince words. SABC made it very plain, contrary to what newspapers are doing in an attempt to duck and dive, SABC made it very plain in written form that they live to support the government of the day. If, therefore, you would reflect anything on the screen that does not lend itself to this type of an ideal you would be in for it. Many producers lived under very unbearable situations. Up till the advent of unionism inside SABC, thanks to the Wiehahn Commission report, when that did happen one realised a flood of people rushing into Mwasa as a trade union for affiliation. This also wasn't a smooth sailing route in that SABC in a number of levels resisted it in favour of the - remember Mwasa was a white led labour movement, in favour of the white led staff association. With regard to the distortion of facts one very good example that many producers liked to joke about even today, when you would go and make even a magazine programme and in the background thereof was there an emblem written Anchor Yeast because that starts with ANC that would be problematic enough for it not to see the screen. Budgeting was also an area that caused much concern. In line with the intent to project any programme made by Blacks as inferior you would be given an inferior budget. At times this did not pertain only between the races but intra-ethnicity as well. An example was in one department, TV2 this time, two producers would be given dissimilar kind of budget to do the same programmes, the same duration on an alternative basis, the reason being to arrest the progress of the one that does not seem to be towing the line, that doesn't seem to be agreeing with the point of view of the manager. An example I have here is a pre-Xmas programme built up to the Xmas fervour that a producer had to go and do in Soweto. On viewing the rushes, that is the video before editing, the manager discovered that there was a dog barking in the backyard and the manager wanted to know why the producer did not capture a picture of that dog so that it is seen with the owner of the house who had a car, the owner opening the door and the dog jumping in and driving around. When the producer did say that, that is the programme was about capturing the pre-Xmas joviality in Soweto it is not in line with that kind of a mood to see a dog also joining in the celebration or pre-celebration. But where the producer made a mistake in view of the thinking of the manager was, the producer made it very plain that it is not according to the black culture, nor to the Sowetans for that matter. If you are not making the programme for the producer then that was it. Finally the distortions. If be it in the news phase, second phase magazine programme or whatever type of a programme there would be a person either advertently or inadvertently would say anything that would be seen to be in line with an attempt to show there was something wrong with the government. That would be twisted in a manner that would eventually sound like that person was confirming the acceptability of the modus operandi of the government. This is easy to do if one knows how the television works. It is easy to cut a certain portion of any extract and join it with another, it could be at the tail-end, and you take the whole chunk in-between that could have proved the negative so that in the end that which is portrayed proves the positive. Thank you.
MS MKHIZE: Thank you very much for giving us an exposition of your experiences within the SABC. The issues you raise earlier on are very difficult but what I am going to do I am going to ask you questions which relate specifically to our concern today, the whole question of human rights violations in relation to your organisation. You mentioned that you were treated differently, I mean members of staff were treated differently based on racial grounds and their political affiliations, but for us as a Commission there has been time and again we have come across, especially from the white community, people have raised concerns that they didn't know that other people in South Africa were treated so badly. As a person who was inside, for instance SABC as an institution, how would you explain that practice that people just didn't - ended up not grasping the nature and extent of human rights violations?
MR KHATHIDE: I wonder how those people were brought up and how they got their socialisation because I don't need to be politically sensitive to perceive any atrocity meted out to another person. To make this quite clear, having been on the receiving end of things at the SABC, I know there were people who were worse off than me, worse off in the sense that I still am here at SABC after 15 years. Two and a half months ago I was completing the years, there were those who were not a little luckier than I was to be working here till today for doing anything that (...indistinct) that. So that when I say to you I know people witnessed, they did of course witness those kind of hardships directed at many of us and if they start to say they were not aware I fail to understand that if as a black would see other blacks being treated a little worse than I was why was it not so with those that were treated better than I was.
MS MKHIZE: Maybe if I might be more specific. What is it about reporting, what is it which was done which made people for instance not know how many children were dying? Would you say when a thousand people were killed in Soweto maybe there was a way of saying well only two people were injured?
MR KHATHIDE: A deliberate blind-eye turning to realities would be the only reason. If you go now to our archives and have time to go through those rushes, those videos that came from, particularly from the Reuter situations, you will find things that did not go on air because of the sanctioning. So it is not that people were not aware and they did not know what was happening but it was did that go down their throat? Did they approve of that to be seen by the public?
MS MKHIZE: One last question before I hand you over to the Chair. How do you think SABC should be structured so that we don't hear stories of people saying we don't have an opportunity to report fairly?
MR KHATHIDE: I have had a number of journalistic courses attending and in these courses I attended one thing I embrace that is the freedom of expression. In line with this, therefore, if any corporation, if any news ...trained be given that status of being an adult, I am saying an adult coupling to training because you would know of course that you need to balance your stories, you need to do all the other things that are necessary. Briefly you have to focus, you have to have a structure, you have to have an angle. If that happens we will see a variety and growth, a variety of ideas on our screens without sanctioning that which the manager would want the people to see, but allowing people to make conclusions for themselves or for themselves about what they see. In my meaning the country will develop, not only will those journalists develop but the country as well, the government will benefit because the government will also be having an access to things they might not know, and even things that aren't palatable to them, but it will be the worst government that will know things that are unpalatable to them that are a reality.
DR BORAINE: Are there any other questions. Then I would like to thank you very much indeed for coming here today, for preparing a document, for giving it to us so that we can study it a little more even outside of the public arena and in particular for telling us in very stark language the sort of atmosphere and environment that you have been in. And I hope very much that as we try to get an understanding there will also be a change and a transformation even beyond that which has already taken place. Thank you very much indeed.
DR BORAINE: Just a couple of announcements. There will be light snacks available for everyone where we had tea and coffee earlier, and that means everyone who is here, so the sooner you get there the better. Secondly, and this is a very important announcement, for all working journalists, not very many I suppose, but for working journalists please note, and that was written by a journalist, Dumisa Ntsebeza will give a short, very short press briefing at 1:45 at Radio Centre and I would urge you to try and be there, that's for working journalists. Can I thank you all for your attendance. We will adjourn now until about quarter past two, two o'clock, alright, they say two o'clock, hard work, where we will resume the programme. Thank you very much.
ON RESUMPTIONADV POTGIETER: We start this afternoon's proceedings. Welcome back. The next witness is Professor John van Zyl. Good afternoon Professor van Zyl, welcome, thank you for coming. Before we take your testimony I will ask you to take the oath.
MR LEWIN: Thank you Mr Chair. Professor van Zyl, thanks very much for coming. We know that you have made a submission as part of a larger submission and you are going to lead us through a shorter submission this afternoon. Before doing so I think it would be useful for people here, particularly our new visitors, if you could just explain how you got here, who are you? Thank you.
PROF VAN ZYL: Thank you very much. This submission was made formally by the Media Monitoring Project of which I am a member. My own personal involvement stems from the fact that I wrote a column for the Star for some 16 years from 1976 to 1992 called John van Zyl and the Box, which means that I really had a quite unparalleled opportunity to monitor the SABC for 16 years and also probably lost my mind doing it, I must say.
PROF VAN ZYL: But in terms of the columns that I wrote and in terms of my involvement with SABC TV particularly and in terms of being an academic at Wits with a very keen interest in human rights and the media, I paid SATV a particular sort of attention.
PROF VAN ZYL: Thank you. My presentation really consists of two parts, the first is an oral presentation which is a summary, brief summary of my formal presentation. It will run for about 12 - 15 minutes and then what I would like to do is to screen three very short extracts from a mid-week programme of 1985 which I believe really do illustrate some of the points that I want to make verbally, and I also think that it's quite easy to forget exactly what a television programme, the mid-week programme or network programme looked like in 1985, and this might be quite a good little aid memoire. I want to start this presentation by asking the same question that Daniel Goldhagen poses in his book Hitlers Willing Executioners. It is in brief, how could so many ordinary Germans have participated uncritically even enthusiastically in the extermination of the Jews? And Goldhagen rejects the usual very commonsensical reasons like, the perpetrators were coerced, they had no choice, they had to follow orders; or, the psychological and social pressures were so strong that everybody had to conform; or that the perpetrators were simply petty bureaucrats, simply doing what they've been told; and fourthly that the perpetrators did not know what was going on. If we apply it to the South African situation and we ask, how could so many ordinary White South Africans have embraced apartheid so uncritically and so enthusiastically and spied on their neighbours who were contravening the Immorality Act, reported blacks without passes to the police, accepted the endorsing out of communities or the tortures of prisoners, how could this have happened? Let's see how Goldhagen would answer this question. He dismisses these commonsensical reasons as not being sufficient explanation for the actions of thousands of ordinary Germans. Instead he argues that crimes against humanity and gross violations of human rights are only possible because of the beliefs of the perpetrators. Put another way, it can only happen if there is some sort of motivating ideology. Now where does such an idealogy come from? He says it stemmed in Germany from the intellectual, cultural and bureaucratic framework of the state and therefore he traces in great detail the role of the newspapers, films, we heard about Linie Riefensthal this morning, the radio certainly, the schools and other public institutions that together cultivated over time the notion that Jews were somehow not human, that exterminating or harming a Jew was a simple act in accordance with some natural law. Now we might not agree completely with Goldhagen's rather simplistic account of the origins of Nazi anti-semitism but the point that he makes about the link between the horrors of the holocaust and the media is of the greatest relevance in a South African situation. If we substitute the word racism for anti-Semitism in his argument, we can start to understand the reason why apartheid was so uncritically embraced by the majority of whites during the apartheid era. Radio and television vigorously supported Christian National Education, the Department of Information, veld schools, the Afrikaans churches, Stratcom, and the whole nationalist culture infrastructure in cultivating apartheid. Now what about the role now specifically of SABC? The role of the SABC during the apartheid era will be remembered in the history of broadcasting as one of the most obvious examples of the blatant misuse by a minority government of a public broadcasting service. The SABC supported for most of its existence by public license fees and state financial support acted as the official mouthpiece of the ruling National Party from 1948 to the first democratic elections. In fact even during the run-up to the elections in 1993 there was still resistance from within the SABC to voter education programmes on television by the old guard. For instance the SABC insisted that organisations like the Vrouefederasie, Rapportryers and Landbouunie match or be equally represented to the 80 or so democratic organisations that made up IFEE, the Independent Forum for Electorial Education. There can be little doubt as to the harm inflicted on all the citizens of South Africa through the many years of apartheid propaganda, hate speech and the neglect by the SABC of its human rights obligations as a public broadcaster. In my submission I've given 30 or 40 examples of particular programmes that were positively racist, positively pro-apartheid, but of course the other more difficult things to measure is the absence of the human rights culture, or the absence of any sense of a democratic perspective. Now what was neglected? Well these things that were neglected where these obligations included the citizens' right to information, the right to freedom of speech, the right to education, the right to the environment, and arguably the self-imposed intellectual and cultural boycott that the SABC practised by banning all meaningful debate and discussion and refusing to open a window on the world did as much to harm all viewers, white and black as the conscious propaganda campaign to demonise the liberation movements. It's not easy to forget the banalities and indignities and intellectual obscenities that viewers had to endure for nearly 16 years when the SABC actively supported the gross violations of human rights by supporting acts of state terror, cross-border raids for instance, covering up the truth about acts of torture and death in detention. So the point I wish to move to now is the responsibility of the SABC for the gross violation of human rights as based on the following points. The SABC was not an unwilling victim of a powerful government that overruled it's opposition to state interference. The SABC was a willing lackey of the government, on occasions even exceeding the demands of the state in propagating the policies of apartheid. It's policies and those of the National Party were identical, although at times it's Broederbond hierarchy favoured positions further to the right than mainstream Nationalist thought. It must therefore bear responsibility for its news bulletins that maintained and cultivated a mindset amongst white viewers that saw apartheid as being natural and inevitable. It most certainly was instrumental in helping to create a war psychosis that supported the total onslaught myth through its manipulative news broadcasts, it's documentaries like Vys vir Vreede, Brug Viertien, Helicopters, one can go on and on and even its dramas like Rooi Komplot where within a completely unsuspecting genre like dramas, you always had the wicked communist agitator who runs off with the pretty girl. And also in terms of the documentary department, the firing of Kevin Harris, the firing of Stuart Pringle, about 25 people one can think of, Francis Gerard whom we see now on BBC. Besides this it retarded the development of a South African culture by emphasising ethnicity in music, drama and the visual arts and by downplaying the contribution of any black artist, writer, musician or dramatist in a South African culture. I remember once wanting to do a documentary on black Jazz and they said yes that's fine but you can't show it on SABC 3 because it's white channel. Through its self-imposed intellectual and cultural boycott of international thought, it helped turn South Africa into a parochial society. It shamefully neglected the use of radio and television in education at all levels. It deliberately retarded the advancement of black management, as we heard this morning, and personnel in positions of independent responsibility in the SABC hierarchy. Also it condoned corruption in management in terms of awarding contracts to certain favoured Afrikaans production houses as well as condoning managers enriching themselves by awarding contracts to themselves. Finally we must now ask, is the SABC, can one think about the SABC as being guilty of crimes against humanity? The question of whether media practitioners can be accused of crimes against humanity is new, stemming from considerations of the genocide in Ruanda and the ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia. Not only is it a new issue, it's a complicated one. The deprivations, torture and death suffered by civilian populations have increased dramatically and visibly over the past few years, calling to question the issue of the responsibility or even the culpability for this phenomenon. These newly visible crimes against humanity are usually massive acts of violence on large groups of defenceless civilians by murderous individuals or sections of the army or police force. Since few reporters or television, radio journalists have actual blood on their hands, unlike the perpetrators that have committed physical acts of violence, crimes against humanity have not yet been directly associated with media practitioners, but the mass media with its global dimensions are increasingly seen as having an effect on perceptions of history or political events like the CNN version of the Gulf War. In addition the actual role played by the Hutu Miehl Colleen(?) Radio in Ruanda, that propagated hate speech against the Tutsis as well as the media that supported ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia, and maybe the SABC maintaining apartheid, has provided new evidence of crimes against humanity. So the issue of whether the cultivators and maintainers of ideology, like radio and television practitioners are as culpable as the perpetrators is now being addressed seriously for the first time. As civilians increasingly become the target of crimes against humanity in the forms of genocide, ethnic conflict and mass deportation it's argued that those individuals and media institutions that support or propagate crimes against humanity are just as guilty as the perpetrators. I think that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission can exercise a decisive influence on a resolution of these questions through it's view of these hearings on the role of the media during the apartheid era. And I also believe that many explanations are still needed from the SABC about it's memory of the role that it played. Chairperson that's my presentation. If we wish to, we can have a look at the three extracts or do you wish to take questions before we do that?
MR LEWIN: Sorry Professor, can we just try and organise so that everybody can see the monitors and, is it possible so that one can be made available in the plethora of cameras so that the panel can see it as well? Thank you. Can everybody see a monitor? Can everybody get to a place where they can see a monitor?
PROF VAN ZYL: The first extract is from Network programme of November the 5th 1985, 12 years ago. It's an example of the way that the SABC News Department supported the total onslaught campaign. In this case it's part of an actuality programme. "If they succeed in that aim similar installations will be deployed in Southern Zimbabwe. The air umbrella is linked to a sophisticated network of missiles and aircraft which are said to outnumber the South African Air Force by a ratio of almost two to one." A recent addition of Armed Forces magazine revealed exact numbers and statistics and compared them with trends in the Middle East. The majority of installations are of a mobile nature and can be easily moved about Angola or Mozambique. The interception radar systems have range capabilities of 300 to 250 km. They were widely used in Egypt and Vietnam with devastating effect. Five different types of target acquisition systems have been developed with capabilities ranging from 180 km to..." "The Republic of South Africa was a vital intermediate link in the process of world conquest and Soviet Russia then used all possible means at its disposal to achieve domination in Southern Africa." "Over the next 10 years, $10 000 million worth of Soviet equipment was brought into Angola. The South African Air Force has already engaged the MIG 21 successfully and intelligence indicates the presence of the state of the art, MIG 23, currently employed by the Warsaw Pact and based in the Middle East and Afghanistan" "For the first time large amounts of sophisticated Soviet equipment outside of the Warsaw Pact countries inside Southern Africa.." "There was Operation Protea in August 1981 that revealed for the first time the degree of integration of Soviet, Cuban and SWAPO forces under Moscow's command. But Operation Protea also proved certain facts to the Russians, namely that a very sophisticated air umbrella was required to protect their terrorist launching pad". "They are using terrorists as weapons and they are harbouring these terrorists in a safe area. And in this safe area where they quite rightly expect the reaction from us, they are providing an air umbrella". If you can just hold that for a minute before we lose sight of this. It's a very clever presentation that. Of course it uses all the techniques of documentary, of news reel. It has an authority that's presenting it. It's got maps, it points out the different places in the world where world domination is taking place. They have a clip from a newsreel, from the Soviet propaganda newsreel with the Soviet Army Choir and hugh rockets. Those are frightening images. And then after that we have the intervention of the head of the South African Air Force who uses all of the terms of cold war speak, total onslaught, Russian arms etc etc, plus rather frightening images of burning houses and then he comes back to the idea - the link between terrorists and the Russians. But the point that I want to make is that when you examine it closely like we're doing now, we sort of take it to pieces, you understand that there's no context to it. That the argument is in fact extremely weak, it's a very clever piece of propaganda but when you have programmes like that, week in and week out, you cultivate the idea that there is indeed a total onslaught and that there is indeed a Russian threat. And that's what worries me, that over the years and years, programmes like these began to cultivate a certain sort of mind set. Now the second, and just hold it for a moment upstairs, the second extract is all in the same programme, we find Louis Nel, the Deputy Minister of Information talking about the reasons why there's a blanket ban on the use of television cameras in townships. Could we have that please. "The restrictions announced by the Minister of Law and Order, Mr Louis Le Grange at the weekend forbidding local and foreign journalists from filming scenes of unrest has elicited strong international and local reaction. The Foreign Correspondents Association in South Africa has warned that the restrictions are the beginning of the slippery slide toward a totally controlled press. On the other hand the Deputy Minister of Information, Mr Louis Nel, has accused foreign correspondents of ignoring and misrepresenting facts. Now in the studio tonight to discuss the issue is the chairman of the Foreign Correspondents Association, Mr Edgar Denter, and the Deputy Minister of Information Mr Louis Nel. Mr Nel how do the new restrictions reconcile with the statement of the President shortly before on Thursday night to the effect of support for freedom of the press? It's got nothing to do with freedom of the press whatsoever. Journalists, accredited journalists will report freely from what is happening from these unrest areas and they will report on what is happening in these areas, and there will be no difficulty as far as that is concerned. In other words no blanket has been placed on what they can report from there. Now when you say accredited journalists, you're talking about accredited print journalists? We are talking about accredited print journalists. Their restriction applies to television crews and that has been done for a very specific reason. We have found, the evidence is quite clear that the mere presence of television cameras seem to be or to operate as a catalyst for further violence. It creates further violence, it spurs on further violence. And I might say that some of the newspaper articles and leaders that have been written over the past few days, and even those who are very critical of the government and of these restrictions, seem to accept the fact that the mere presence of television crews seem to spur on violence. That's what ...(intervention)"Operating on the principal, if you say something three times everybody will believe you, the Deputy Minister takes away another aspect of freedom of speech, and of course vague references to research overseas which he doesn't substantiate but it's just simply stated, there you are and you believe it. The final extract, and I beg to remind you that this one goes on quite a long time and I cut it strategically. The final extract of the same episode of Network supports the war psychosis again by using an insert that praises 31 Squadron for no apparent reason, it's simply another programme about war. In it we have impressive images of helicopters rolling out of hangers straight out from Hollywood, the cult of the violence of war, and then quite subtly the argument shifts to images of World War 2 and the part the SA have played in supporting the Poles in Warsaw. The graphics and the sound effects all remind viewers of the gallant and heroic deeds of the South African airmen. Then by another clever shift the memory is transferred to the present 31 Squadron but the difference is that 31 Squadron now supports the police in civil operations. This legitimises the use of the military in enforcing apartheid. We retain the memory of World War 2 and are asked to use the same criteria when judging police and military violence on the border or in townships. And this clip is a very good example of any excuse to show images of the police or military, images of the police medal parades, cadet parades, of freedom of the city being given to regiments, etc. All of this providing back-up for the idea of a war psychosis. So if we can see this last image please. "...sacrifice indeed. (music and sound effects of flying helicopters). 31 Squadron goes back, the history goes back far beyond the present helicopter squadron. It goes back to the beginning of 1944 with ...(intervention) ...undertaken in those days. Mainly night bombing from heights of between 10 and 16 000 feet. We did on numerous occasions we mined up the Danube with magnetic mines which completely stopped the flow of oil from Flueste (?) to Vienna and within retrospect shortened the war in Europe considerably. We also did supply lifts to partisans but mainly our supply lift was to Warsaw to the home army inside of the city where we had to drop supplies from roof-top height, supplies of canisters containing small arms, ammunition, medical supplies, radio equipment and all the necessities of war. Did you incur severe casualties? Our casualties were terribly high, yes, because of the distance, the fact we went singly, we didn't go in a heavy bomber stream, we were victims of the night-fighters of the light flat guns, of the heavy flat guns and even coming low down, hand held weapons were used against us too. 31 Squadron has had a pretty distinctive history in the South African Air Force both flying Liberators in World war 2 and now with helicopters. What is the relevance of the squadron, how do you define it? 31 Squadron today is more in the supportive role, mainly in support of the police, the military, various state departments and civilian organisations ..." Thank you. Again it's so easy, such a beautiful sleight of hand to see those wonderful graphics of the SAF doing their thing over Warsaw and you slide it sideways and then you're into helicopters being used in townships and you confuse the two, and it's a technique of propaganda which they manage to use quite well. Thank you that's my presentation.
MR LEWIN: Thank you very much for that. I'd just like if I may to pick up on a couple of points, particularly going back to Goldhagen. Could you take us through that again because there seems to me to be a slight, there's a gap in the stage of saying on the one hand this was a general overall ideology and on the other hand therefore saying people were responsible. Can you take us through that, into that step from saying there's an overall culture and then saying that the journalists were responsible.
PROF VAN ZYL: Look it's - the Goldhagen book, the question that it asks is, I think, the one that has not been asked before and which I find an interesting one, a relevant one to the work of the TRC, he says we all know about the police battalions, we all know about the Gestapo and the Nazis in military warfare. What was it that made ordinary people embrace anti-Semitism so uncritically? What made ordinary people suddenly look around them and not see Jews as being human? And he then looks quite carefully at role of the schools and the role of the media, role of the Sunday press, the popular Sunday press in the sort of stories that they ran in the sort of history that they served up, in the sort of popular consciousness that they managed to create. So that in the end there was a sort of hegedemony, there was simply just a way in which you didn't have to say to ordinary people turn in the Jewish kids in the neighbourhood that might still be hidden away, people would just do that on their own. And it seems to me that in South Africa that in terms of the sort of responses that the TRC is asking for in terms of reconciliation, to ask housewives to think back at employing a gardener who didn't have a pass book and paying him minimal wages because he didn't have a passbook. On that sort of level of simply just assuming that in your particular white environment the perspective that you'd adopted was that black people were not to be recognised, weren't there as human beings. And where did this come from? Apart as from history it was cultivated by, for instance on television one never saw images of black people in any executive position or any position except that of a menial. When the famous Justice Tsungu did his Zulu classes, the first things that he taught were, please put in three gallons of petrol or boy fix up the lawnmower. That immediately you managed in popular consciousness through something like television, which really is very effective if you do it for a long enough time in cultivating a certain attitude.
PROF VAN ZYL: I would argue that when you do examine the dramas, when you do examine the news bulletins, where you look at the documentaries that it's such a seamless creation of a particular point of view that excluded blacks from society that there must be culpability, that the lack of argument and discussion on so-called discussion programmes, the lack of educational programmes, I think on that sort of level simply just to take something like the right to education, the way that SABC simply ignored that, the right to knowledge, the way that documentaries were, the documentary department and the education department were both cancelled at the same time because the news department had become a world of its own and it then started to do actuality programmes like we've just seen. The whole border, an interesting point this, that the whole border between documentary and news was blurred into the thing called actuality where you could put across ideology and call it news.
MR LEWIN: Could I then ask the final question myself with a more difficult one. As you know we have to make recommendations in the final report. Where would you suggest a public broadcaster such as the SABC, where would you suggest they go to overcome the difficulties that you have highlighted?
PROF VAN ZYL: I think that the first thing that they should do is read the various protocols and declarations of the United Nations and UNESCO that exist, something like the 1978 UNESCO-Paris declaration which spells out quite clearly, quite simply what the obligations are on the media in terms of human rights, in terms of the right to information, the right to knowledge, the right to environment. etc. It's there, we don't have to reinvent the wheel. And I think that if we take human rights seriously and if we take the various protocols and declarations seriously on human rights in the media, the Brataslav Declaration, the Windhoek Declaration, and start to implement those seriously, we would be a long way down the road.
PROF VAN ZYL: The Media Monitoring Project was started in 1991. It is an NGO and it monitored at that time specifically news on SABC TV and it was monitoring the way in which information about the upcoming first democratic elections were being handled, was enough information being put across in the right way, the most appropriate way. After that the media monitoring project monitored the local elections and it has now been working quite hard at monitoring the media in general from only monitoring the broadcast media, it now monitors the media in general. Every Monday it sends out an update and it works on fairly large projects, research projects like looking at diversity in radio news, that's the big project that's been funded, and also looking at gender disparities, images of violence, that's the general sort of thrust, trying to properly at the way the link human rights, gender issues, violence issues with the depiction of those in the media.
MS MKHIZE: My related concern or question is that, based on what we have heard since this morning, it's like racism played a major role in the perpetration of human rights violations especially against black people. The question which I would like to put to you is, within your project, where do you think we are today? What role do you think the media is playing today? Is it successful in assisting the people of this country to begin to see each other differently as against the socially constructed identities of black and white people? Where do you think we are and where do you think we are going? I'm asking that hoping that you'll look particularly at the role that the media is playing.
PROF VAN ZYL: It's quite a big question and I think one should best handle it by putting it into two parts. The first one is to look at the role of the TRC as a fact of life at the moment, as a social phenomenon and the fact that newspapers and television are reporting the work of the TRC and I think that has created a vocabulary which hasn't existed before. In the research that we did in the Media Monitoring Project we looked, we did a search for the term, gross violation of human rights, and it didn't exist before the TRC was established. Now I think that, if you read the Star on a Friday, then you have a whole page in which you look at - Max Du Preez's programme on a Sunday evening which goes a half an hour in which the very concept of human rights is being discussed in all its ramifications or its very subtle ramifications. So in that respect I think that the mere existence of the TRC and it's various commissions has already exercised a profound on the way in which journalists, media people are observing the interactions between the various social groups, gender groups with in our society. The second - you say where are we now, I'm still trying to answer this, the second part is I think must be a professional answer and many of us have just come from Grahamstown where there have been conferences the last two weeks talking about the education, the training of journalists and a lot of the crass reporting of events is, I think, due to poor training of journalists and there's an enormous amount of catch-up to do in training black journalists, and I think this is being addressed at the moment by various institutions, technikons, NGO's etc. So my response to you is that I think we have come to a point that we really can never go back from. I think we have reached the point where human rights has a way of analysing or describing what happens in society cannot be lost, or can be lost with some difficulty.
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you, Professor thank you very much for the presentation. We know it's part of a much bigger submission that you and your project has made to us which we appreciate very much, and I should commend you for at least having kept your word that within 30 minutes you will be able to take us through all of the thought-provoking stuff that you have done. Thank you very much for having come. Thank you.
ADV POTGIETER: Mr Pretorius you have had a long career within the SABC, if I'm not mistaken it spans about 26 years, give and take. So we, in fact have you served after the democratic elections of 1994?
ADV POTGIETER: But would you mind just very briefly giving us your background that you - you know the positions that you've held before you get into your submission? And can I ask you to just switch on the microphone, there's a red button, if you press that.
MR PRETORIUS: Yes I started off in journalism in 1965, end of 1965, newspaper journalism. I went to the SABC in 1968, radio. 1974 I became a news editor on the desk, TV. 1977 I went down to Parliament as a - now you see it's getting involved. I went down in '74 and '75 as a parliamentary reporter, then I became news editor. '77 I went down again and I became political correspondent for the SABC in 1980. 1984 I came back to Johannesburg and then I became editor of TV news. In those days the TV news was different, the department was different, well separate from current affairs. In '87 I went down again to Parliament as the so-called Tuinhuis correspondent, some people even called me the Tuinhuis muis. I came back in '89 and then I became senior director news. Eventually in '91, 1991, I'm not too sure, I became editor-in-chief of TV News and I remained that until September.
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you very much. We are trying to get a better insight about the situation and the role that the SABC was playing during our mandate period and we're quite sure that given your background in that corporation you are able to at least give us some insights into that. So I'm going to ask you to please just give us an idea of what the situation was like during those years that you spent there.
MR PRETORIUS: Thank you once again for allowing me or affording me the opportunity to address you. As you may or may not know I was not very keen to be here today, not because I have a problem with the TRC, on the contrary I think it is a very necessary exercise that all of us have to go through to achieve true reconciliation. My problem is just that I cannot see how you can get a true picture of the SABC's role in those years if you only have three of us here, and I know you have been experiencing logistical and other problems, but if I don't say what I'm saying now I'll be untrue to myself and my fellow SABC journalists, because I honestly thing you won't be getting a full picture. And one of the reasons why I say this is because many of us went through very, very difficult times and I want to mention one name, because I think I have to do it, and that's the late Christo Kritzinger. We shared a lot of his experiences and he would have expected me to have been here. In my humble opinion if you really wanted a full picture of the SABC's role in the apartheid years, the number of ex-SABC people appearing here today may I say is woefully inadequate. Although, as I said to you, I was editor-in-chief of the TV news of the Corporation for five years leading up to 1994, and at one stage I was also radio news head for about 18 months, I was a relatively small cog in the machinery of this massive organisation. I was the fourth head of news in 30 years. The others are all alive and well and living in Johannesburg. I had other senior news colleagues whom I know personally who would have been willing to appear here today had they been for instance asked timeously. And then I asked myself, this is the one question I asked myself, where are at least one ex-chairman of the Board, or at least one previous director general and at least one of the ministers responsible for the SABC in the past? I think they could have told you a few choice bits. Now can you really form a true picture of exactly what was going on without these people, and believe me I feel kind of lonely. So that's the reason for me being here and I'll try my best. You have my assurance, I'll try my best to give you the best obtainable version of the truth in these circumstances. Now just to stress why I'm here and under what basis I'm here, I'm not here to speak on behalf of the SABC, I cannot do that, it will be pretentious for me to do that. I'm here to give you an honest impression of what happened in those years when I was editor-in-chief from '89 to 1994 and then also as a more junior staff member as for instance, political correspondent of the SABC, and as you will know in those years a political correspondent was on the interface, at the interface, whatever the word is, of the political scene. The way I understand it the TRC wants to find out whether the SABC, and in particular it's journalists, attributed to human rights abuses during the apartheid years, and if you ask me that question, my answer would be with the wisdom of hindsight, yes it most probably did. Don't ask me when and how, but it doesn't take somebody with a crystal ball to deny that, I know it must have. But the details I cannot tell you. If you ask me whether the SABC and it's journalists helped to keep the policy of apartheid going, the answer will be at certain times definitely yes. I have a big proviso though, and this is part and parcel of the above two answers, and I know it sounds hackneyed and I know people start laughing when people say this but for what it's worth to you, you must judge this issue in the historical context and against the circumstances of the time, and if you then come to a certain conclusion, fine, fine. All I'm saying is don't deny the contextual or the historical context. Without the hindsight I have now and the personal insight knowledge, I would also have been tempted to condemn and say the hell with the prevailing circumstances, they were apartheid puppets and I have the fullest understanding for that viewpoint. Mr Chairman I'm not saying the SABC never erred or never failed in its duty to the people of this country, of course it did, nor am I trying to pass the buck or look for excuses, and I am fully prepared to accept full responsibility for decisions of my own or my subordinates which may have led to human rights abuses. What I am saying, however, is that there was never any conscious intent to abuse human rights. Now at the risk of boring you, but I think when one comes to conclusions on this matter one cannot lose sight of the following and these are the stipulations of the Acts or Act under which we had to operate, and if you picture this as a journalist you can understand how difficult it must have been. In terms of Section 12.2 of the Broadcasting Act of '76, the responsible minister imposed under Section 7(2)(b) of the Radio Act the following conditions on the SABC: With due observance of Section 2 of the Republic of South Africa Constitution Act of 1961 and, subject to the provisions of the Broadcasting Act, the SABC shall broadcast it's programmes, a. to afford all the national communities of the RSA the opportunity of achieving full self-realisation within their own cultural and social spheres, b. due regard for the prevailing conventions and customs of the different communities, to encourage and promote cordial and sound relations between these communities. c. to disseminate information and to educate and to, d. report newsworthy current events in the Republic and abroad clearly, unambiguously, factually, impartially and without distortion. Mr Chairman the legislation further stated that the Corporation shall broadcast nothing which and I mention four relevant points out of eight. "a. may inflame public opinion or may directly or indirectly lead to any contravention of the law or may threaten the security of the state, b. may cause unrest or panic, c. may hamper any government department in the execution of its duties, or d. is calculated to damage the Republic's image abroad". As you know the SABC had a minister responsible for the SABC who had to report to Parliament. The State President appointed the board of the SABC who in turn appointed the DG, the director general as CEO. He exercised control over and supervised the staff of the Corporation and performed functions and used powers assigned to him by the Board. This very Board determined the policy which had to be exercised by the SABC in general and the journalists in particular. Examples of these policy directives via a previous director general- 1. The SABC supports the view point that there can be no negotiation with leaders or parties who use violence to achieve political aims, therefore the SABC will not provide a platform for these people to air their views. 2. The SABC distances itself from the so-called new order media who are in constant confrontation with the State. 3. South Africa is the target of a revolutionary onslaught. The SABC must fight this with all the means at its disposal. In addition we had our journalistic ethical codes which echoed journalistic values but obviously were influenced by the preceding guidelines and also the Acts. To complicate our lives further there were many other Acts regulating many journalists in South Africa. We all know about them, and obviously being the public or State broadcaster we run a greater risk of being taken to task, so we had to tow the line. As you can see Mr Chairman, not an easy ride. Another important factor which affected the lives of journalists before 1994 was the constant pressure on us from politicians. Although in all fairness I must say and I must say this, after 1989, the NP pressure dropped dramatically. When I say political pressure I mean all parties, sure, but obviously the NP pressure was greater than all the others put together. SABC journalists were harassed, verbally abused face-to-face or by telephone at all the hours of the day or night. A few of us were even informally sentenced to death by a rightwing organisation. I received these sentences by post twice and when I arrived home on the evening on those two occasions shady characters sitting in a car outside my gate staring at me. I am not saying this to drum up sympathy, I'm just giving you the facts to sketch the circumstances that we had to work in. The fact is Mr Chairman politicians in those days had a totally naive, simplistic, and one dimensional view of broadcast journalism, in particular TV. And I'm sorry to say some of the NP politicians were the main culprits. They utterly confused publicity value with news value and the other way round when it suited them. They were virtually paranoid about what was termed exposure for subversive elements or exposure for political opponents to the right. Now be that as it may Mr Chairman the problem was not that we were harassed, that comes with the job as you all know, but the test lies in how we handled this pressure. This is the crux of the issue and here the perception is that we failed. The fact is we had to manage these people. And can you imagine how difficult it is for a senior person in a new set-up to manage a politician and manage his own staff at the same time. Sometimes we had to give two steps backward to move three forward the next day, we had to live to fight another day. In the process we did make mistakes, yes, we made many mistakes but we also had untold successes which people don't know about. I'm just pointing it out because as with aircraft you hear about the one that crashes but about the 9,276 that take off safely every day. You will ask me as journalists why did we even listen to these people? To give you but one example. In the 80's during the emergency there was serious talk, in those days I moved in those circles as a journalist, there was serious talk in political and security circles about putting the SABC and it's journalists under some kind of military control. As you know in those days in the security or under the state of emergency there were many security laws in place and there was serious talk about this. So we had manage the situation whereby something like that would not happen. And Mr Chairman do you remember the SABC Deputy Minister who took us to task in public because we were hoaxed into broadcasting the then fictitious death of Dr Andries Treurnicht. He was actually convinced that we had all turned CP and did that to drum up sympathy. The fact is Mr Chairman these were realities we had to contend with. It is fine for board chairmen and others to say that they were never given any orders, maybe they weren't but we are journalists as I said just now, we were at the interphase and we bore the brunt. Another factor which affected the performance of the news department of the SABC was the quality of its journalists. Not their inherent abilities, if you will excuse me for a moment, not their inherent abilities because there were some excellent journalists, the inherent abilities, but the training. Radio and especially TV, as people who are people who are involved in it will know, is a very, very specialised business and many of us, including myself were simply thrown into the water and we had to swim. Some of us drowned. I'm not too sure sometimes if I didn't pick up some brain damage in the process but the fact is we had a hell of a time, we weren't trained properly. Professor Guy Burgers words the other day at a seminar ring true, he said many times editorial content, and he wasn't referring to the SABC, he was stating in general, cock-ups rather than conspiracies determined editorial content. Many a time it was so, those words were applicable. Nevertheless in the final analysis Mr Chairman, SABC journalists for what it's worth to you, and I know Professor van Zyl won't agree with me, but there are many things I don't agree with him either, are about which they performed admirably under these circumstances, given the circumstances they performed admirably no matter what anybody says. The next point I want to mention Mr Chairman is the role of the SABC's journalists during the '80's and early '90's. Journalists always, I think, tried to be fair, never mind objective, objectivity is not possible, but if you are fair you have to give credit where credit is due. As you all know after the introduction of the Tricameral Parliament the UDF declared publicly that its declared aim was to make the country ungovernable. Now never mind the reasons why they did this, political reasons were there and I've got no problem with that, what I'm saying is that that was the declared policy. The country lapsed into a low-level civil war, we cannot forget this, we were in a low-level civil war, there was a state of emergency, whatever the reasons were that's beside the point, especially in Natal. Moreover the so-called old world order was still in place then. It's easy for Professor van Zyl to point to those old programmes and talk about the war psychosis, we were in a war whether we deny it or not, there was a cold war. Soviet and communist spheres of influence were applicable and I'm not a person, and people who know me, I'm not a person who looks for a Communist behind every bush, but these were realities we had to contend with. The Cubans were in Angola and our sons, for whatever reason, were fighting against the Cubans. Sure there was a war going on, they were being killed they were being shot to bits, bloodshed was all around us, necklace murders, security force action, in the midst of draconian security legislation which affected the journalists. Now without the hindsight knowledge about possible third-force involvement, could anybody of sound mind have really have expected the SABC and it's journalists to have gone against the State, against the background of those acts in the '80's? What we did do was and it was a conscious choice, we decided to work within that system and we tried to do our job within that system and for that I make no apology. I took that conscious decision. We pushed as far as was humanly possible, we pushed against those parameters trying to smother us, constantly. Now seen overall, look at it from another perspective and with hindsight, I agree with hindsight and I didn't think about this before I could with hindsight, I say the SABC played a very important role in getting South Africa to where it is today. We all know that the fall of Communism and the collapse of the Soviet bloc, the fall of the Berlin wall etc etc, changed the world completely. How can anybody deny that the new world order caused certain things to become possible? The Cubans to get out of Namibia, the speech of the 2nd of February 1990. If those things did not happen, I'm convinced the 2nd of February speech would not have been made at that time. In the run-up the government realised that it had to negotiate with the ANC, it's a known fact and the ANC on the other hand that it could not overthrow the government by force. Now surely in this process the SABC must get some credit if it helped to get the parties to the negotiating table? And it was the SABC's public editorial standpoint and viewpoint that these parties should get to the negotiating table. Then Mr Chairman, the SABC's journalists also played a major role since '89 in opening up South Africa's society and preparing it for 1994. Professor van Zyl again repeated his untrue statement that we never introduced debates. Debates started in '89. We opened up. When we got the gap, we took the gap, because when the change of government came in 1989 a big wide gap opened up and we took it. We opened up South Africa's society and prepared it for 1994. When the change of government came in 1994 - ja sorry, we took the gap, we introduced those debates, we opened up the flow of information. A previous board of the SABC has claimed the credits for that. I heard him say that in an interview once. Although the board or management did not stop us, and backed us, the initiative for this openness came from the journalists and the journalists alone, nobody else. Why do I mention this Mr Chairman? Now we're coming to another factor. We were constantly criticised when we opened up, we were constantly criticised and sniped at by individual board members because we were perceived to be pro-ANC, what we did do was we opened up and reported news as it happened, sure the ANC got more coverage, yes but they made more news, they were just more adept at making news in those days than the other parties and for that we got criticised. As a matter of fact three of us at one stage were called into the board room and we were read the riot act because of this. Now what, Mr Chairman that brings me to what is referred to as the myth of objectivity and I am watching the watch, so don't worry. Now this is something I feel very strongly about, and whether you agree with this or not, it's not a big issue but I pledge with you to see whether there is no valid statement in this. Sir Alistair Burnett, a British newscaster once said, and I quote, "The very selection of news involves bias. There is some bias in every programme about public policy. The selection of the selection of the policy to be discussed and those to discuss it means bias." - Sir Alistair Burnett.Andrew Boyd the well-known British journalist and trainer says, "Complete impartiality is like perfection, an ideal for which many strive but none will wholly attain. Even the most respected journalist can only be the sum of his or her beliefs, experience and attitudes. The product of his/her society, culture and upbringing. No one can be free from bias however hard they try to compensate by applying professional standards of objectivity, for objectivity itself subjectively appraised must by nature be an unreliable yardstick. The journalist's responsibility is to recognise the inevitability of bias without ever surrendering to it". I say Sir, that is what we as journalists, and in particular myself, tried to do under the then prevailing difficult circumstances. We made our mistakes, yes I admit. If you ask me whether there was an institutional in the organisation against the liberation movements and other parties in favour of the NP government, it would be futile to deny it, of course there was. Was the Board not appointed by the President? Yes. Would he appoint Board members that would be anti-NP on majority? No. Who appointed the DG? The Board. Would the DG be somebody in the olden days anti-NP? No. And did the DG not execute Board policy within a broad NP sphere of influence, so to speak? Now I come to another point, the following step, is today's Board not appointed by the President and the same system not followed under a broad ANC sphere of influence? Then I want to ask, what makes the new Board, Solaki Sisulu and Alistair Sparks better equipped to handle institutional bias than the old Board, Wynand Harmse or myself? Seeing Mr Sisulu has a very strong political background and Mr Sparks was even on the ANC's parliamentary list, and what about Mr Dr Ivy Masepe Kasaburi, an ANC cadre who was re-employed after becoming chairperson of the Board? Not my words, the words of an ANC minister. Now what makes today's new SABC journalists better equipped to handle institutional bias than we could, when some of them openly backed the ANC in the past, were MK commanders, some of them in Botswana are card-carrying members of the ANC, have strong struggle credentials and have direct communication amongst the powerful figures in government? Now I'm not saying they are not coping with institutional bias. I'm not saying that, all I'm saying is if they are, so did we. There is a perception that SABC journalists in the apartheid days were white Afrikaner males, all members of the Broederbond and a collection of rightwing English-speaking whites. Not so. From the early 80's TV news and radio news, even before that, had staffers from across the demographic and political spectrum. Now granted, this is now the bad news, not nearly in the correct proportions, yes. The simple fact is nobody wanted to work for us. But still we had a basic system of checks and balances for what it was worth. It wasn't only one-sidedness or one-sided, no the decisions weren't only taken one-sidedly. For this very reason we had many fruitful and sometimes heated discussions on editorial issues. Some of us differed drastically on how a certain story should have been handled. We weren't always ad idem with how we should handle these stories, but in the end a decision had to be taken and abided by and it's when those decisions were taken when the unhappiness occurred. In the process we took wrong decisions but we also took many correct decisions. Another untrue perception Mr Chairman is that most of us were content to accept instructions from a group of Broederbonders who met in the mornings to scheme about the news control of the day. No, we had normal broadcast organisational editorial meetings where we coordinated the day's input and production. There was now way in which the news could have been manipulated as we have been suspected of. Anybody who vaguely knows a radio and TV-news system, and I think Alistair Sparks will agree with me, will realise that it is simply not possible to manipulate it in such a way, it's not physically possible. This brings me to the monitoring actions of the SABC and to Professor van Zyl's and with that I conclude, to Professor van Zyl's outfit which evolved into the Media Monitoring Project, and I must say I've been waiting a very long time for this opportunity to state this in public. This was overseen by a man, and Professor van Zyl knows me, I like him as a person, but I think he will also agree he likes to see his name in neon lights now and then, and I think that is part of the reason for the Monitoring Project, and it was run at that stage, and you agree Professor, that she was barely out of her teens, at that stage she hadn't even seen the inside of a newsroom. For the greater part of this exercise, ja she'd never been in a newsroom, never mind understood the mechanics. Now I know there has been in the submission, now all I'm saying is when you look at that submission, take note of what I'm saying now and if you want to reject it, please do so but I have to say it. Many more qualified people than I feel exactly the same way about this. There is a grave injustice about which I felt very strongly over the years, there is a grave injustice about this whole thing and that is the at DNP, MNP have been getting away with a lot of distortion for a very, very long time, and don't believe me, you needn't believe me, go and ask other people who know about these things. Many of their findings were based on blatant verifiable untruths. The statement of Professor van Zyl now that the old guard in '89 was against voter education. It's not true, it's verifiably not true. And quite frankly Sir the reports weren't worth the paper they were printed on. I concede, I concede they had valid criticism, yes, and Bronwyn and I spoke quite a few times and we discussed this, yes, there was valid criticism, but it was so infrequent that most of the findings varied from debateable to ludicrous, with the latter more prominent. Many empirical researchers, and you can go and check, including Dr Daan van Vuuren of the SABC, Dr Skeen and Ruth Tomaselli of Natal University, Professor Pieter Fourie of Unisa in those days questioned the methodology of the BMP, MMP The Natal Witness of the 15 December said, and I quote: "Although quoted, the BMP's standing has been questioned. This week it was described by a left-leaning academic as having no methodology, no argument, no evidence. All these guys seem to do is confirm their prejudices". Dr Daan van Vuuren of the SABC's Broadcast Research Unit says, in his comments from research perspective on the '93 annual report of the BMP: "The language used in the report is not academic an/or objective as usually used in research reports. It seems to fall more into the category of journalistic criticism from a particular point of view". Ms Bronwyn Keen-Young herself, who ran the project, admitted herself in a written comment that, "The Broadcast Monitoring Project had never claimed to be neutral or scientific. Its research was by no means the definitive statement on SABC news coverage and researchers who adopt a different standpoint either to the left or right of them, might have different beliefs about how the SABC should operate and therefore come to different conclusions about its coverage".Now Sir, if ever there was an admission of bias in so-called research, this is it. Professor Kean Tomaselli, the director of the Centre for Cultural and Media Studies at the University of Natal, a vehement critic of and by no means an apologist for the SABC, said in '94 and I quote, and this is my second last page, I'll be ending off. "My centre has been involved in debates over monitoring TV since 1992 when the campaign for open media, COM, approached us to participate in the run-up to the elections. From that time on we have become increasingly alarmed at the nature of the scientifically untenable monitoring efforts by first, COM, then the Broadcast Monitoring Group, BMP, and lastly the MMG which arose out of the BMP. An evaluative report commissioned for us by TNP, because we asked him to do it, to do the evaluation, indicated the total lack of any methodology in BMP's so-called reports, compounded by questionable claims at having secured the endorsement of local and international media experts, we were approached by one of BMP's European funders who once presented with our critique, agreed that BMP was incapable of conducting a credible monitoring operation. BMP which became MMP after being separated from the Independent Media Commission continued with its utterly discredited approach, notwithstanding similar criticism from the international community". Mr Chairman the three distinguished international observers the SABC had during the run-up to the elections in '94 echoed these sentiments. As a matter of fact, Mr Stewart Rebo, the then chairman of the Commonwealth Broadcasting Association actually burst out laughing, uncontrollable fits of laughter, when he read one of the MMP's reports on coverage on which he knew the full background details. Forgive me for spending so much time on the subject Sir, but I was waiting for a long time to get this off my chest, but in the interest of justice I had to, if you will forgive me, because for too long gullible people have been taken for a ride. To sum up. I know what I've said here today will be received and interpreted differently by different people, and I have full respect for their views. Some will agree and some won't. These include current and ex-SABC people, many politicians and people involved in the struggle. As long as they and you accept that what I basically tried to do was, from within my limited perspective in the broader sense of the SABC, I tried to give an honest perspective from my side to help you to come to a finding. Thank you again for affording me the time to address you and if there are questions I would be willing to answer them.
ADV POTGIETER: Thank you Mr Pretorius. You indicated that you were the Tuinhuis correspondent at some stage, I think during the presidency of Mr P W Botha, do you want to share just some of your, or what your role was, some of your experiences in that regard?
MR PRETORIUS: I can do that Sir. If you remember correctly there was this altercation between the then President and the previous Director General. Now without going into details but this soured the relations between the SABC and the State President and by implication the whole state apparatus to such an extent, it was a total mess. And then because I'd known him at that stage, I'd known him very, very well, we'd also come through - I myself as a journalist and he as a newsmaker, we'd come through some difficult times together, not as buddies in the National Party but as newsmaker- a journalist, and I think we respected each other and we understood each other. We differed on many things and I think I was just about the only one who could tell him, and I don't want to sound 'grootbek', but I could tell him, I won't to say go to hell but I could tell him, no, and that is one of the reasons that I was asked by the SABC to go down to Cape Town and to sort out the situation, number one, to become the correspondent, the so-called Tuinhuis correspondent and to then make sure that unnecessary hassles don't arise. It was part of the managing set-up the, or not the set-up of managing the politicians and in the end it worked I think very well. At the beginning it was a bit of a problem but in the end it worked reasonably well and there was nothing like that ever again. Okay, you must believe me now but nowhere along the line since the 14th of August, I think I went down there the 14th of August '87, was there anything like that again. So it was a managing exercise which sorted it out - it never happened again.
MR PRETORIUS: No it was not a case of the President is happy, no, no by implication fine, yes but not that the President is happy. No it was to keep the lines, you see it was to keep the lines open because we as the public broadcaster in those days or the state broadcaster, we had to have access to news and information, and at that stage the relations were so soured through no reason within the control of the journalists, that we had to try everything to open up the lines of communication. That was the main reason. Okay, people read many things into that, yes and I had a hard time, I mean I couldn't show my face sometimes and when I got down there people started doing tsk, tsk, tsk, and shaking their heads you see but in the end it worked out fine, with hindsight it worked out fine.
MR PRETORIUS: Mr Chairman, yes, considering the circumstances, it is, you know the reason why, yes, it is undesirable, totally undesirable because you're placing a heavy, heavy burden on the person who has to do this. And then the newsmaker also has a torrid time because then he has to also adjust his own way of doing things and it's not a very, very advisable thing to do. What is very good, however, and the principle is not unique to any one country, it's like that all over, in the United States you have your White House correspondents as you know, you have the correspondents who cover Westminster in Britain and the people get to know, they get to trust the journalists and it's all a matter of trust. Once you have trust between a journalist who has been doing the rounds for a long time and the politician can see he's got integrity, then things calm down, there's no problem. But they get jittery, and any politician does this when he gets the idea that there is a journalist around him who, let's say is irresponsible or is incompetent or whatever the reason, so it is under those circumstances definitely undesirable.
ADV POTGIETER: In that particular stage, sort-of reinforces the perception that the Corporation is manipulated; the Corporation hasn't got a mind of its own; the Corporation is under the control of politicians, particularly the President and that sort of situation, it's also from that perspective that it appears to me as if it's something that one shouldn't encourage to be happening.
MR PRETORIUS: I agree with you, I agree with you wholeheartedly Mr Chairman. The fact is that you see we had to take decisions and we had to bring in remedial action in those times and as you know if you remember back, you know the, the -. You see the whole style of government, the whole style of government in those days and my fellow journalists who were with me down there in the those days will remember, the style of government was so stifling, not from the President, I think he was a victim, many times he was a victim of the people around him. I don't really think he wanted this to be like that, but it's the old story of power, absolute power and the people around him, the securocrats, we couldn't move into meetings down there without encountering a general in a civil service department in a meeting, you see. So the whole set up was stifling, but we had no choice, we had to somehow survive.
MR LEWIN: Just briefly Mr Chairman if I may. Mr Pretorius, I don't want to get involved in any further discussions about MMP and the rest, I just think I would like to recognise the role for instance that CID played in the transformation which has taken place within the SABC.
MR LEWIN: No I'd like to take you up on two points, you say that it's impossible for us to get a full picture, I would agree with that. It's very difficult for us. Would you have a suggestion as to how that picture should be found because it's obviously necessary as has been shown by the considerable debate that's come out around this hearing.
MR LEWIN: And then the question of the role of the journalist. I'm very interested in the way you describe your own role and say that you moved towards saying that we managed these people, we had to manage these people. These people at that point were in fact on the one hand your bosses, on the other hand were fairly vacuous as far as their heads were concerned. Is there not a contradiction there? Is there not some greater role which SABC journalists did not play during these years of apartheid which they could have done?
MR PRETORIUS: Yes there is. Just to clarify or to answer your first question. Maybe I didn't state it clearly or I didn't express myself clearly enough. What I said was, what I meant by managing was, you know like you manage a situation, external factors, external people, politicians. That's basically what I managed. Inside the SABC, I mean I've got to be careful now because at one stage I was also one of the top management, yes I suppose it's to a lesser extent like you manage anything inside company politics. You know vis-a-vis groups and so I suppose in that sense it's also true, unless I misunderstood you, what you really wanted from me. Then the second part of the question again?
MR PRETORIUS: Oh yes, okay now I remember. Yes with hindsight, no for sure. I mean many of us are going through processes now where we, I wonder what would the right word be, not agonising, but we're going through like many other people who were involved in a situation like we were in the SABC or elsewhere, you know we're saying to ourselves now why didn't we do something about this, why didn't we know? Could there have been a way, why did we miss this? Yes and with hindsight. And don't tell me how we could have avoided it. When I think back and I've thought about this many, many times, how we could have avoided landing up in a situation in which we did. I don't know, because every time, we also heard certain rumours because our journalists were also on the ground. We also heard certain rumours and certain things but as soon as we moved, tried to follow it up we ran up against a brick wall. Basically because we were part of the organisation that had to comply with those strict acts. I mean it happened many a time that a junior civil servant interpreted the security of the state in a totally different way than we did and we couldn't get a yard past him.
MR PRETORIUS: With the SABC journalists? Ja sure. Adding onto what I've said here, if these things occurred, if apartheid was kept in place and especially the human rights violations occurred as a result of our actions even though we did not know about anything, yes, there is a culpability if they should have occurred but don't ask me to determine to what extent.
MR NTSEBEZA: Thank you Chair. Now I don't know whether I heard you correctly. Did you say that because there was, as a fact, a state of war in the country at the time, necklace murders etc, etc, that that also was a reason for the SABC as a public broadcaster to take a stance in support of the security forces of the day? Did you see that as the duty of the SABC?
MR PRETORIUS: Yes, I saw it as a duty of the SABC. Just to clarify I said the country was in a state of low-level civil war and the declared policy of the UDF was to make the country ungovernable and in the process there was bloodshed, there was violence. It was the duty of the public broadcaster or the state broadcaster in those days to be against people who try to make the country ungovernable, there is no other way. Whether I agreed with this or not, that's not the point. The fact is under the prevailing circumstances the SABC had no other choice.
MR NTSEBEZA: Is it not so that even at that period, when there was a declared policy of the ANC to make the country ungovernable, there was a corresponding period of gross violation of human rights by the security forces, tortures, deaths in detention, long periods of imprisonment, killings, abductions and I think the whole story of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission today, let alone that it was also the story that should have been unveiled by the Harms Commission, but then I'm not going into that, but even that period there was a deafening silence on the part of the SABC, your media to equally highlight the misdemeanours of the security forces as they occurred? And the question is, wasn't it the role of a public broadcaster to bring to the people of this country, and I mean all the people, not just that section of the people that felt threatened by the so-called declared policy of the ANC to make the country ungovernable, but wasn't it the duty of that public broadcaster to say, people of South Africa, this is what is happening? Whilst the security forces have a duty to defend us, there is an uncomfortable truth that is coming through. We have 30,000 people in jail as a result of the state of emergency, ranging from ages 13 to 30 and over, people are dying in detention, people are tortured etc etc.
MR PRETORIUS: Yes Mr Chairman, through you, yes I agree with you, it was the duty, it should have been the duty. But unfortunately, and I don't want to pass the buck, unfortunately many of the these things we did not know about and I know everybody now says I didn't know, I didn't know, but the fact is we did not know about many of these things. And those that we did get a whiff of, or an idea of, a notion of we just couldn't follow up. And I can give you the assurance that even if we had done so, there would have been big problems from the state in terms of the Act. So I grant you, yes it was the, it should have been the duty of the public broadcaster to highlight this but there were circumstances prevailing. Number one, many of these things we just did not know about.
MR NTSEBEZA: I would like to believe you Mr Pretorius but, and we don't have the time unfortunately to test those averments, but in the examples that I've just given, it's not as though we had to believe them. There's a difference between believing what is being said and knowing what is happening. And I'm not asking for a legally defined knowledge based on total evidence. I tell you now that your medium was part and parcel of covering the Harms Commission and everything else that went around those sort of Commissions, Vlakplaas operations and all that. And so to the extent that there was that exercise, there was definitely a viewpoint that suggested that there were hit squads in the country and that the security forces and their conduct was something far beyond a legitimate mandate to secure the country from the inroads of communism and terrorism and whatever. Your medium used to project on to the screens actions by security forces in the townships. The SADF's presence in the townships was commonly known by everybody and there were always reports that in quelling the violence, in trying to prevent people from necklacing others, there were excesses. Now did you consciously conduct researches as a medium that were intended to verify the allegations of torture, of uncontrolled and untrammelled shootings by security forces in the townships and stuff like that? Or even when you did conduct those researches, the truth became so uncomfortable that you decided consciously as a medium to uphold a viewpoint that was in line with the total onslaught theory rather than expose the truth in a fair way, even accepting what you said about fairness and objectiveness or (...indistinct)
MR PRETORIUS: I think there are elements of, you mention quite a few points and I think there are elements of each that played a role during those times. The fact is that we had to, when we went into these townships, our journalists and our camera people, and if I remember correctly that wasn't so often because of the nature of the situation, they tried their best to get what they could get, but in the end they could only go where they were allowed to go, so that was a major, major problem. The other thing was, the other element that you mention, did we try hard enough with hindsight, no, we didn't try hard enough, we did try but with the knowledge we know and we have now, we know that we should have tried harder. To give an example, when these Vlakplaas accusations, not accusations, statements by Dirk Coetzee, I think it was in '89, when they surfaced through Vrye Weekblad, we immediately sent a reporter and I went myself as an observer to a news conference in Pretoria, and I remember that day, I remember it very very well, how we grilled Vlok the Minister, Minister Vlok and some of his senior people. Some of my fellow journalists will remember that day. How we really went for them and we could get nothing, they denied it from point A to point Z and the only newspaper in those days, the only news medium who had the story was Vrye Weekblad through Dirk Coetzee, and we ran up against a brick wall, the other people did as well. It's only later that the story developed and people could loosen it up. So fine I agree we should have tried harder and we didn't.
ADV POTGIETER: I've got to intervene unfortunately, Mr Pretorius, our big enemy has run in on us again. Our next witness has to return to Cape Town so we simply have to take his testimony unfortunately but I want to just take the opportunity to thank you for coming and being quite forthright in your testimony. I want to assure you that we don't regard ourselves as armchair critics and with the benefit of hindsight wanting to look for people who are responsible and so forth. We are simply here to find out what we can and it's forward looking in its essence really to learn some lessons out of this and I want to assure you that we don't expect to get the full picture about the SABC in today's proceedings, it's simply just a way of airing that issue. It's very much alive, we will carry on with it and hopefully we will get a fairly complete picture that will assist us in making the recommendations that we have to make as a Commission. Thank you very much.
ADV POTGIETER: And I can I ask you just a final favour. Is it possible for you to leave us a copy of your submission, it's going to assist us very much in getting it on to the record? Thank you, thanks a lot. S A B C
ADV POTGIETER: Professor good afternoon and welcome. We know that we have indicated that we would have taken you slightly earlier in the programme, but as things are you know time is always a problem and things happen, but thank you for your patience and we know you've got to actually get back. So without anymore ado I want to just ask you to take the oath before we take your submission.
PROF TERREBLANCHE: I would like to testify in Afrikaans. In the light of the time limitations Mr Chair, members of the Commission, I have probably been invited to testify because for 15 years I was a member of the SABC from 1972 until the beginning of 1987. Bishop Tutu this morning referred to the drunkard crossing the street and was very surprised that he found himself on the opposite side and to link up with this image the street involved here is a very broad highway and I found myself on the one side of the street and now I find myself on the opposite side. The paradigm shift that I underwent in the process is a very large one. To link up with what Mr Pretorius said I must say that in one respect and only in one respect do I agree with him and that is that it is not easy to summarise the events of the past 40 years as far as the SABC is concerned, to place it in a proper context. However I will also try my best to give this kind of perspective. This morning it was rightfully said that the SABC for many years was the propaganda arm of the SABC and there can be no doubt about this. However, I would like to qualify it in the following manner. The SABC not only acted as the propaganda arm of the National Party but the propaganda of consecutive National Parties because every new prime minister came with a new kind of approach and policy and had a need to legitimise himself to justify his position of power and the SABC was repeatedly used to play a very important role in all of this. Initially I could perhaps say that in my own academic work, in the very close past I have been very interested in how power functions, the interaction between ideological and political and economic power and how propaganda can be used to perpetuate and legitimise power and I think the interaction between the National Party and the SABC is a very good example of how this happens. I would like briefly describe what I think the five consecutive National Parties were. I will have to say something about the '50's, just to get my story organised. In the '50's the National Party's biggest propaganda point was that the Afrikaner was that part of the whites who, because of the second Anglo Boer War and British capitalism had been done a great wrong. It was built up, a whole psyche was established from the '30's and on the basis of this a National Party came into rule. For 11 consecutive elections and three referendums they were the winners. That must be something of a world record I would suppose and the SABC played a definite role in establishing this world record. Then after the National Party came to rule, this psyche of the people who had been wronged and of being victimised and the threat posed to the Afrikaners and the Afrikaner culture was something that had been firmly established. During the '50's the SABC was apparently not used as a very important instrument, apparently Doctors Malan and Strijdom thought that Die Burger and similar papers were adequate unto their purpose, but in 1959 Dr Verwoerd realised that the SABC had to be used and in 1959 in a very unceremonious way by means of getting rid of Dr Gideon Roos, and he appointed Piet Meyer his good friend as chairman of the board. Dr Verwoerd at the end of the '20's studied in Germany. Dr Meyer during the '30's studied in Germany and it was general knowledge that they were both admirers of Hitler and the concept of German social nationalism. I will say something about Dr Meyer just now but during the period of Dr Verwoerd which was important, was that the policy and more an ideology than policy, of separate development was established and refined and as was repeatedly the case, he misled his support to some fantasy land. He misled them into some giant lie and that was that South Africa, the Afrikaners were the victims of British colonialism but it was blown up out of all proportion. During the '60's Dr Verwoerd saw the dangers of a process of democratisation, the dangers of the so-called American Melting Pot and he established the idea of separate development. The idea that 75% of the population could really live out their political freedom in a limited space of the South African surface area. We cannot over emphasise how effective that Verwoerd propaganda and ideology was, particularly after the UDI in Rhodesia then, Zimbabwe, in the 1966 elections the National Party had a great victory and drew many English votes. After the murder of Dr Verwoerd and the period of Mr Vorster this idea of separate development, as a fair solution to South Africa's political problems, continued and this lie was perpetuated, but as you know Mr Vorster was a super policeman and during his period the problem in South Africa was diagnosed as one of an internal uprising which could overrule the white rule. A security system was developed which was really feared and I have the idea that Mr Vorster did not really interfere much with the SABC but was quite happy with the Piet Meyer rule that applied within the SABC. However, and I don't have concrete proof hereof, that as part and parcel of this police state which was built up at the end of the 60's, in that period security people were also either in official or an unofficial capacity, they also had an influence on the SABC. Now from the mid '70's till the Mr Vorster's period, the ideology underwent a very important shift to that of a spinola where this government had to have a grip on things. Where there was the ideology of a total strategy as a counter measure for the total onslaught. For many years this propaganda was unbelievably successful as a propaganda which carried everything in its wake along with it and for many years I've seen that this total onslaught was held up as a total onslaught from Moscow orchestrated, organised and financed by the communist regime and totally inspired thereby and that it was aimed at white civilization, at the Afrikanerdom, at Christianity, at Western values, capitalism etc. That there was something of a total onslaught cannot be denied, I suppose, but it was not a total onslaught against the things that I am pointing out now and referred to just now, but it was a total onslaught against the racist regime, the apartheid era in South Africa. And the propaganda was twisted very deftly and was held up to be part of Communist expansionism. The invasion of the Cubans in Angola was in a manner of speaking a God-given opportunity because it made this propaganda that much more effective. In the meanwhile also the homeland separate development propaganda continued, but it was only during Mr Botha's period that the total strategy as a counter- measure for the total onslaught really came into force. During his period of rule, almost following up on Mr Vorster, he had a period of so-called reform, new apartheid which also played an important role and I will indicate just now what the implications were for the SABC. Both Mr Raubenheimer and Mr Pretorius referred to the fact that at the end of the '80's the SABC played a role in promoting reformation, change emphasising negotiation and Mr Pretorius referred to helping to open up the process, and perhaps I should refer to the beginning of the De Klerk period. The de Klerk sort of ideology, if I could describe it as such, was one of negotiation, of reform and transformation but it is something that I must emphasise that this transformation of the late '80's never envisioned as prime objective black majortorianism and rule. It was aimed at really reinforcing the period and perpetuating white force and rule. It was a period as with all others of ideological misguidance and the argument was that it would be possible through negotiation to continue white rule. As far as the SABC is concerned, during the '50's, the SABC was not quite as apparently used by the NP, but Dr Verwoerd can still be regarded as somebody who was a very excellent ideologist and who was very successful in perpetuating his ideology. And if we look at it very closely it is quite astonishing that it gripped so many peoples' imagination for so long. I don't want to detract from Dr Verwoerd as ideologist but I must say that he never succeeded in his ideological propaganda. He wouldn't have been as successful in that if it didn't have the assistance of Dr Piet Meyer. I was elected to the Board in 1972 and until 1979 Dr Meyer continued as chairperson of the Board. During the '60's the radio was in particular used to promote this and to justify this policy of separate development and to sell it to people. There were many programmes, daily affairs, commentary etc which were tremendously propagandist, should one today listen to them again and analyse them. During the Piet Meyer period, the SABC and its staff took a certain form and while I was member of the board later on we referred to the Piet Meyer establishment. Over a period of twenty years this Piet Meyer establishment found its being, and I must tell you it was a formidable establishment. It was like a mafia in its functioning. At the time the Cape liberal wing of the National Party, I don't want to go into how liberal it really was, but I was appointed to the Board by them and the informal instruction that I received as part of this struggle between the so-called verligte south and the verkrampte north, conservatives versus progressives, was that I had to form a counter-measure for Dr Meyer's ideological propaganda in the council. I was young, it was a very grand instruction and I enjoyed, in terms of this, these terms of reference, to go against Dr Meyer's ideological propaganda to meet him head on. But now with the power of hindsight, it seems as though I didn't really have any effect. I said in the beginning that the SABC was not used only by the National Party but by consecutive national parties for its or their propagandist purposes. But I must also say that there was a continuous struggle within the National Party to conquer the soul of the National Party. This internal struggle, to call it that, concerned a grip and a grasp on the SABC because all the factions within the National Party, the verligtes and verkramptes in this saw a very efficient instrument to strengthen their own position and establish it within the National Party during the Botha period, the period of so-called new apartheid, when I myself was misled into thinking that the new apartheid of Mr P W Botha could lead to something substantial. And in particular after Dr Meyer retired in 1979 very real efforts were made, and I was part of this, in political circles within the SABC to negate the influence of the Piet Meyer establishment within the SABC and to scale down this effect, but this establishment was so well entrenched that it was impossible. If I think back about what Mr Pretorius said now that they were under pressure from politicians, that it wasn't always easy, that might be true, but on the other hand, particularly during the period of the Piet Meyer era and with it's shadow being cast for many years after that, nobody really made any progress within the SABC if he couldn't prove that he had been given the green ideological lights and that he could spot them very carefully and describe them very well, if you will understand my imagery and I can continue to explain it a bit better later on. But it was Mr Raubenheimer this morning who testified that politicians phoned Mr Jan van Zyl, head of news, and this type of thing happened very regularly, and that Mr van Zyl didn't want to succumb to his pressure. Well that was part of what happened, with all respect to Mr van Zyl. It wasn't his bravery, it was simply a matter that he had grown up in another school and that he was part of another faction within the National Party establishment. Oh yes I just remember, in my review of the '60's I forgot to point out that Dr Meyer was not only chairman of the SABC Board but he was also chairman of the executive committee of the Broederbond and the building as you know is just here next door. For the record I also wish to admit that from 1969 to 1989 I was also a member of the Broederbond and all the struggles and fights within the National Party between the factions in the greater establishment also took place within the Broederbond and it was at times quite a hard and tough struggle that was continued there. During the 50's through to the '80's from one state of emergency in the '80's to the next, the flow of information was very limited and the SABC, and I must emphasise this because during my last years there I did not have pleasant experiences, I was constantly pleading for better information to the public that should a revolution happen, and everything came to ruins, I often said in the council, people could not, when they investigated at a later stage, say that there was no proof that the SABC had told people what was happening in the country. But my efforts all came to nothing. But during the '80's in particular, the SABC played a very important role as a weapon in the arsenal of the total strategy against a total onslaught. In the beginning of February 1987 I resigned from the National Party and in March the Council was recomposed, re-compiled and I was left out without any further ado, and perhaps that is the point at which I must stop and ask you to ask me questions.
MS MKHIZE: Professor a lot has been said about the interference of government in this institution, the SABC. In your own views, how, can you give us the details as to what exactly happened because we seem to be getting a confusing picture?
PROF TERREBLANCHE: We didn't have full knowledge of this type of influencing which was taking place. The pressure was often exerted on the chairperson only during the period when there was a good relationship between Dr Verwoerd and Dr Meyer, it was obviously probably not necessary because they were cut from the same mould, cast from the same mould at the time but, and with Dr Vorster I'm not sure to which extent they saw eye to eye, but Dr Wynand Mouton became chairman later and the ministers often phoned him. We had a long conference in Durban and at times he was reprimanded quite strongly, if that's the best word to use, regarding the things that were happening in the SABC. There were also constant rumours about how the SABC as some people had said in the SABC, the heads of news etc had been phoned by politicians. There was a time when Mr Pik Botha was the minister, he was the great light at the time but nothing came of that and I was also a part of this Verligte hoop, I had personal contact with the minister, the relevant person in his department, if necessary I can mention his name, phoned me quite often, I knew whom he phoned quite often. It was the beginning of the '80's when there was a really strong struggle going on between the Verligtes who wished to take over the SABC and because the Piet Meyer establishment had been entrenched so thoroughly they couldn't succeed. And I must tell you it was quite a frustrating period when we as the Verligtes could not succeed in gaining a grip on the SABC so that we could come with our transformational propaganda and reform. Today I realise that wouldn't have been the true thing either, the true reformation and true reform. Do I answer your question?
MS MKHIZE: Thank you, but if I may just ask you a related question. I mean the listener out there might be left confused about the stature of this institution, the SABC if maybe you need to just give your own views as to how do you think people should be appointed. It's difficult to accept what you are hearing that it's one institution which can easily be manipulated either to the left or to the right.
PROF TERREBLANCHE: If you say that what I have said is confusing to the listeners out there then the easiest excuse would be to say that it was a confusing period. Perhaps even more strongly stated, it was at times a virtually chaotic period and what happened in this larger establishment which increasingly became aware of the growing threat, in many and various ways there was infighting to obtain influence and the SABC was justly regarded as a very mighty arm in the arsenal. The cultural organisations, broederbond etc, all regarded this as important and wished to gain a grip on the SABC, on people in the SABC to gain exposure for themselves, exposure for their ideas which they wished to promote and propagate. So that it was a pretty chaotic affair is beyond any doubt. Perhaps if time allows I could perhaps tell you this little story just to explain how ridiculous it sometimes was. In the SABC we heard that a programme would be broadcast, and I hope that I announce correctly, Darryl in Russia. Apparently Mrs Elise Botha was watching television and if she saw something she didn't like she would complain to Mr Botha about it and then Mr Botha would speak to Mr Pik Botha about it and it is said that PW Botha at times asked Pik Botha, "you are so unhappy about something according to the SABC but I didn't complain", and he replied, "yes but when I saw the programme I just buggered them up before hand so that they couldn't broadcast it". Pardon the expression but that's exactly what was said. Now Mrs Botha heard that something about Russia would be broadcast and the programme was prevented from being broadcast and we were told that something had gone wrong with the sound track of the programme because there was time required to convince Mr Botha and Mrs Botha that this programme really had nothing to do with the total onslaught. The programme was later broadcast and it concerned a young man who walked around in the forests in Russia and described the animals to the people.
MS MKHIZE: Maybe while they are digesting what they are saying, I mean based on what you are saying it's like the SABC is very, very important medium through which to influence the public. But in your own views, how can, I mean because for us, the Commission also as it has been said, it's important to be thinking about what should be done in future to make sure that the things we are concerned about today are not part of our history again. Regarding the SABC as an organisation, it's like I don't want to believe that in future it might not be exploited to influence public opinion. In your own views how can it be structured in such a way that those mistakes don't happen again?
PROF TERREBLANCHE: In reply to this question I should perhaps refer to the fact that I regard myself as a political economist and I often ask myself the question about what things really are about in the economy and it could not just be to achieve the highest economic growth rate. It must be in the interest of the common interest or the bon commune or something to that effect in the economy. This is more easily said than done. It is part of the democratic process and part of the civil community to be in constant discussions and argument to define this bon commune and at times to gain certainty about what we mean, and it is on part of this that I did my doctorate in the beginning of the 60's. I was interested and it was quite a challenge to be part of the SABC Board because I regarded it as an important portion of the public sector and that it was also the task of the SABC to promote the bon commune. It was referred to this morning that freedom is not absolute and that nobody can be ideologically neutral. I fully agree with that. Now at the SABC many arguments and debates were entered into in this regard and to clarify this for myself, in due course I obtained some of the documentation of the BBC, of the Commission of Inquiry, I've forgotten it's name but it really spoke to me because what happened in England with the BBC which had quite an extent of independence, but which nevertheless had to justify itself to the parliament that the people who were (tape ends) ....ted in promoting and defining the common interest and the greater good. And I pleaded for this when I was part of the SABC Board that we had to set aside time for discussion on how we could regard the greater interest. And this is wisdom of hindsight again, that although the political process in South Africa was a very narrow one, we in the SABC could perhaps compensate for this. Well we are now in a new dispensation and at present you will all agree with me that civil society in South Africa has not developed as it should, the media, the churches, the educational institutions in South Africa etc have to cooperate in working towards the greater good and I must say that there are very few discussion programmes regarding controversial matters as part of the new SABC institution which can form part of the greater debate that must be kept alive, that must be never-ending. What is the purpose, what do we wish to achieve, what is our objective in this country? I know it is difficult in the subject, economics, it is difficult to give a concrete definition and it is equally difficult in public life but it does not absolve us from constantly being busy with this, all these elements of civil society to make sure that they are in place to play a supporting role. But I would say that the BBC should be a very good and important example. Something that just flashed through my mind, Mr Pretorius said that he had the opportunity to get matters off his chest, well if there is one matter for which I was infamous in the SABC and about which I feel even more strongly, it is the extreme commercialisation of the SABC. You know during the '80's 70% of the SABC's funding came through advertisements. I think that was hopelessly too high because in the end the advertisers exert pressure on the quality of programmes. We saw that in the '80's very clearly, and I suspect that at present it still happens, it lowers the quality, it just disturbs the balance and the SABC as a forum for controversial matters to be discussed is suffering damage in the process.
ADV POTGIETER: Professor I want to thank you for the special way in which you presented your submission. Also for you patience. I know your time is extremely limited and you have to go back to the wonderful weather in Cape Town. I see you feel very bad about that. We thank you once again and thank you very much for your presence here today.