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Axed SABC news boss claims ‘political interference’ cost her her job

The fired SABC head of news and current affairs, Phathiswa Magopeni, is fighting back, alleging political interference has cost her her job.

In a statement responding to allegations that SABC bosses and board members had tried to influence its editorial decisions, Magopeni alleged that in doing so, they had abused their authority and engaged in administrative overrun and editorial interference.

She responded to affidavits from… SABC group director Madoda Mxakwe and board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini in a previous complaint she filed with the broadcaster, which had not been resolved by the time she was fired.

They both vehemently denied ever meddling in news trials or telling her what to do; they also did not systematically try to get rid of her. In her response to Mxakwe and Makhathini’s replies, Magopeni said they were trying to “discredit me as untrustworthy”.

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Regarding an unscheduled interview with ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa by the SABC in October last year, she was adamant that Mxakwe and Makhathini were pressuring her to give permission or broadcast the interview. Ramaphosa was on a November ANC local government election campaign in Limpopo at the time.

Mxakwe is said to have instructed the management of SABC’s Polokwane office to conduct the unscheduled interview on October 24, contrary to Magopeni’s decision as head of news to stop the interview, which was outside the standard newsroom processes.

Makhathini also allegedly tried to convince her to allow the interview, she claimed. She also claimed that Makhathini tried to remake the SABC portrait Zulu King Misuzulu kaZwelithini as “unfit to lead AmaZulu” and that he was “one of those who were not pleased” with the king.

He allegedly told her that the media coverage of the royal family’s succession struggle was one-sided.

“Makhathini was not a source as he claims, but an active player in the story and tried to use my relationship with him to get SABC News to boost its efforts to influence the succession battle,” she said.

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