The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg.  Picture: SUNDAY TIMES
The SABC office in Auckland Park, Johannesburg. Picture: SUNDAY TIMES

IN yet another about-turn by the SABC, it announced on Wednesday that it was reinstating seven journalists who had earlier in the day been blocked from returning to work, following an order by the Labour Court that their dismissals were unlawful.

Foeta Krige, Suna Venter, Jacques Steenkamp and Krivani Pillay arrived at SABC headquarters in Johannesburg on Wednesday morning, and were made to wait in the lobby for two hours before they were informed that they should go home because the public broadcaster was appealing against the order.

Lawyers for the journalists sent a letter to the SABC’s legal team asking it when it was intending to appeal.

They also asked the SABC to indicate which employees and board members were “involved in taking or approving” the decision to appeal.

Judge Rob Lagrange in his judgment on Tuesday ordered that the SABC to file affidavits within five days, giving reasons the respondents in the matter should not be held personally liable for all, or part, of the costs of the application.

The SABC capitulated later on Wednesday.

Ningiza Horner Attorneys, on behalf of the public broadcaster, sent a letter back to Solidarity’s legal team informing them that they had been instructed not to proceed with the appeal.

“Your clients are required to report for duty on Thursday July 8 2016, at 9am,” they said.

“In this regard, your clients are required to present themselves at the office of acting group executive, news and current affairs, Mr Simon Tebele.”

Another three journalists — Thandeka Gqubule, Lukhanyo Calata and Busisiwe Ntuli — were set to approach the Labour Court on Thursday, also in a bid to have their dismissals overturned.

The SABC announced publicly that all seven journalists were reinstated.

“The SABC management has instructed its legal team not to proceed with further legal action and the SABC will reinstate the seven dismissed news employees,” spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago said in a statement.

He said the public broadcaster remained committed to “fulfilling its public service mandate”.

The South African Communist Party (SACP), which had been campaigning against the SABC, congratulated the journalists on their reinstatement but also wanted chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the board to step down.

“The SACP is calling on the unlawfully serving SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng and the SABC board to do an honourable thing — resign and pay the costs of the fruitless and wasteful expenditure spree, including legal fees,” the party said.

“The SACP will continue its campaign to bring to an end the administrative and governance decay that is destroying the SABC.”

The seven journalists were fired for objecting to the public broadcaster’s ban on the broadcast of violent protests showing the destruction of public property. The ban was widely condemned and found to be invalid by the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa), which ordered the SABC to reverse it.

An eighth journalist, Vuyo Mvoko, who was not a permanent employee, was expected to challenge the suspension of his independent contractor contract in High Court on Thursday.

This was the third time the SABC had done an about-turn on the matter.

When Icasa first ordered that the public broadcaster withdraw the ban, the SABC refused and said it would take it on review in court. It then wrote to Icasa, saying it would comply with the order.

On the same day, the SABC capitulated in the High Court in Pretoria and agreed to lift its ban of footage showing violent protests.