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TRC Final Report

Page Number (Original) 170

Paragraph Numbers 27 to 38

Volume 4

Chapter 6

Subsection 2

Racial divisions within the SABC

27 A limited service was introduced for black listeners as early as the 1940s. The Broadcasting Act was changed in 1960 to make provision for ‘Bantu’ programmes and a ‘Bantu’ programmes control board. This five-member board was composed entirely of white members and chaired by the chair of the SABC board. A totally separate structure, headed by thirty-five white supervisors, was set up to provide ‘Bantu’ programmes. In 1984, when SABC Radio Tsonga, Tswana, Xhosa, Zulu, Lebowa, Venda, Swazi, Ndebele, Lotus and two ‘black’ television channels were introduced, the officials in charge of SABC programmes for black listeners and viewers comprised eighty-five senior employees: six black and the rest white and almost exclusively Afrikaans speaking. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, the main responsibility for radio news bulletins lay with four national editors who worked in shifts.

28 The SABC’s 1962 annual report states that, from the beginning, programmes were “designed to stimulate the Bantu to appreciate their own cultural heritage, both in his homeland and in the urban areas where he worked”. The black services thus fulfilled their role as enunciated in the 1976 Broederbond ‘Master Plan for a White Country’ which stated:

The mass media and especially the radio will play important parts. The radio services for the respective black nations must play a giant role here.

29 SABC staff member Bheki Khatide, who joined the corporation in 1982, spelled out the practical implications of this at the hearing. There were, he said, different training classes for different races at the SABC. Black members of staff were given older machines to work with, and the methods applied in preparing black members of staff to become producers were inferior to those applied to his white counterparts. This was in line with the intention to project any programme made by black people as inferior and lacking in quality. Sometimes this strategy was also applied intraethnically, and was also used to arrest the progress of someone who did not seem be toeing the line. Black staffers were allocated inferior budgets and were slotted into post-production facilities in the “unholy hours” between midnight and six am.

30 Most of what Khathide said was confirmed by Jakes Nene of MWASA. He singled out staff members such as Cliff Saunders who “haunted” them with “skewed” NP/Broederbond information. Nene said that black people were employed only as translators or interpreters, interpreting for white journalists who covered stories, even in the homelands. He confirmed that there was a ceiling at the SABC for black people. No black person, however well qualified, could reach supervisory level. Any white person in the employ of the SABC was an automatic superior.

Rule by sjambok

31 Regulations controlled every aspect of the lives of black staff. Under Section 14 of the Staff Code, a member of staff could be fired without being given a reason or explanation, as long as the manager suspected that his or her ideological convictions were not in line with the government of the day. Nene said that any white person at the SABC had the right to fire any black person who was hardegat (intransigent). Workers received severe reprimands for looking at white women and had to give way in the passages.

32 Nene revealed that, between 1975 and 1985, if people were fortunate enough to be called to a disciplinary hearing, they could choose to be sjambokked (whipped) rather than fired. Those who refused to be sjambokked were dismissed without a proper disciplinary hearing. This startling revelation about sjambokking at the old SABC was confirmed after the hearing, when MWASA produced a list of those who had been punished in this way.

Radio Freedom

33 By the late 1970s, information and propaganda had become indispensable for both the proponents and the opponents of apartheid. The South African government had its security apparatus — and the SABC. The African National Congress (ANC) had Radio Freedom.

34 Broadcasting from five ‘friendly’ countries in Africa, Radio Freedom operated from March 1973 to December 1990, using information to “mobilise and arouse” the people into active participation in the struggle against apartheid, within and outside the borders of South Africa.

35 For the banned and exiled ANC, Radio Freedom broadcasts were public meetings via the airwaves. In one of its submissions to the Commission, the ANC described the channel as the ANC’s “major means of internal information and propaganda”.

36 At the media hearing, the South African Defence Force (SADF) submitted a document on its monitoring of the ANC’s media and in particular of Radio Freedom. The document said that Radio Freedom was used to “communicate a message of intense hatred and the instigation of a climate of violence”. The SADF made a direct correlation between select Radio Freedom broadcasts and acts of violence within the country, like the killings of community councillors, police members and other ‘collaborators’.

37 Thus, for example, the fact that 13 540 security force members were attacked between 1984 and 1990 was attributed to Radio Freedom broadcasts such as: “If you do not throw your weapons into the sea, then use them against the racist army and police, who are upholding the inhuman system”. (Radio Freedom on Radio Angola, 4 April 1990.)

38 Undoubtedly, the ANC’s media offensive assisted in the war against apartheid and may have contributed to a climate of violence. But it is difficult to conclude that the broadcasts alone were directly responsible for the large number of incidents of gross human rights violations recorded in the SADF document, particularly as nobody was forced to tune in and listen to Radio Freedom.

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