SABC survival key not only to South Africa, but Zimbabwe where the public media turned into shameless arm of regime repression

I would like to express my unequivocal support for the staff of the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), during their time of uncertainty and turbulence regarding security of their employment - as the company faces enormous financial challenges, which have led to plans for massive retrenchments, thereby, understandably fomenting widespread disgruntlement and anger.

Tendai Ruben Mbofana

As a fellow media practitioner – based in a neighbouring country, Zimbabwe, where our own state (public) media has been bastardized, and effectively reduced to a mere desk in the ruling ZANU PF party’s publicity department – SABC has been a ray of hope in our southern African country, as the epitome of what public media should be.

The media in general, and public media in particular – which is colloquially known as the ‘fourth estate’, in reference to its hypothetical role as the fourth arm of government, that is supposed to hold the other three (executive, legislature, and judiciary) accountable to the nation – is not expected to turned be into shameless and amoral praise-singers for the ruling establishment, but independently, fearlessly and impartially question their policies and actions.

Such a very important mandate is what I have joyfully witnessed with the SABC fulfill with exceptional professionalism and efficiency – giving all of us optimism that there was still life and hope for ethical journalism in this world.

This has also been a lesson for those from countries such as mine, who appear oblivious as to the difference between holding their government accountable, and being anti-government – as the two are inexplicably confused by the clearly polarized population.

Most of us, who only seek to hold our leaders answerable for their every action – be it, gross mismanagement, rampant corruption, cold-blooded brutality and persecution against dissenters, or heartless political and economic injustice against the citizenry – have been erroneously labeled ‘anti-government’, in spite of our above-board and sincere expressions of concern (which are guaranteed in our country’s constitution), as those in power have sought to divide the nation by disingenuous characterization of anyone who dares question them as ‘enemies of the state’, who are motivated by ill-intentions of instigating dissatisfaction, leading to unrest, and illegal regime change.

Yet, when one carefully analyzes my media articles, for instance, there is not much difference from how the SABC – as a public broadcaster – would question the SA government (and other facets of the country’s socio-political landscape) – yet, no normal human being would ever regard the SABC as being ‘anti-government’, not even the SA administration itself.

For those who are politically mature, there is an unambiguous difference between holding the government accountable, and being an anti-government activist – and, those who can not make the distinction are, most unfortunately, lost.

No sane person can fail to differentiate between the SABC’s probing nature, and actions and policies of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA), or Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), for instance.

Furthermore, who can fail to admire the editorial independence of the SABC – made even more admirable by the clear separation of power between the company’s executive and the newsroom, especially during the past few days, whereby news coverage intensely critical of its own board and executive (which are behind the recent ‘restructuring exercise’, characterized by massive retrenchments) were freely aired – something, that would be unheard of at our own national media in Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), or Zimbabwe Newspapers (ZimPapers) staff would have lamely (like lambs to the slaughter) either kept quiet, or even supported, any unfair labour practices against them by there employer, in their news reports.

In this regard, the survival of the SABC is not only good for the people of South Africa – as they will always be guaranteed a voice – but also serves as inspiration for those in countries, where speaking for the voiceless, and questioning those in authority, has been made synonymous with treason (further labeled ‘nefarious’, ‘dark forces’, and ‘bad apples’, who need to be flushed out).

In a country where the public media is nothing more than a bunch of blinded and fearful cheerleaders for the ruling elite, even shamelessly defending the indefensible – as billions are looted from state resources (leaving the nation bankrupted, and the citizenry impoverished) without so much as investigative journalism, whilst perceived regime opponents are brutalized without so much as state media coverage.

The Zimbabwean nation has been so polarized, as they have been indoctrinated and brainwashed, such that they now lack all discernment between the ‘fourth estate’ mandate, and opposition anti-government activism.

For them, black is the same as blue.

Therefore, we stand firmly with the SABC, and implore those in authority to immediately indefinitely withdraw any retrenchments – whilst, formulating implementable and effective policies, that will ensure the state media’s survival and success, whilst also proficiently fulfilling its pubic service mandate.

In this regard, we also hope that SABC’s professionalism will serve as inspiration and guidance for our own misguided state media, in showing them the light as to what is expected of them.

© Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to contact him on WhatsApp/Calls: +263733399640 / +263715667700, or Calls Only: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]

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