TRADE union Solidarity says it will approach the Labour Court this week in a bid to have the suspensions and disciplinary action against several SABC journalists set aside, pending the adjudication by the Constitutional Court on the public broadcaster’s decision to ban footage of violent protests.
The matter is expected to be heard in the Labour Court in Johannesburg on Thursday.
The SABC had refused to withdraw the charges against the journalists who had questioned the editorial decision, CEO Dirk Hermann said.
Last week the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ordered the public broadcaster to withdraw the decision to ban the footage. This followed a complaint filed by lobby groups with the Chapter 9 institution.
The SABC has decided to have the Icasa ruling reviewed in court and has refused to withdraw its questionable editorial decision.
Hermann said it was unfair labour practice to discipline employees only because they distanced themselves from an “unlawful instruction”.
“We therefore believe that the individuals concerned have a very strong case against the SABC for the very reason that the charges laid against them by their employer are inconsistent with the Constitution,” he said.
Solidarity is representing Foeta Krige, the executive editor of Monitor and Spektrum, journalist Suna Venter and business editor Thandeka Gqubule.
According to the union, the SABC sent a letter to the three last week accusing them of “further misconduct” for informing the media about their suspensions, among other things.
The broadcaster suspended the three in June after they disagreed with an instruction during a diary conference not to cover the Right2Know campaign’s protest against censorship at the SABC.
The SABC is also taking disciplinary steps against five other employees. Busisiwe Ntuli‚ Jacques Steenkamp and Krivani Pillay were suspended after sending a letter to SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng‚ objecting to the SABC’s editorial direction.
Lukhanyo Calata was charged after writing a similar letter following the resignation of acting CEO Jimi Matthews, and Vuyo Mvoko was asked to provide reasons his contract should not be terminated, after writing in The Star newspaper an article titled My Hell at the SABC.