Faith Muthambi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Faith Muthambi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

COMMUNICATIONS Minister Faith Muthambi has praised the SABC, saying it is one of the state-owned companies that she is “proud of”.

She has been silent during the controversy surrounding the SABC’s editorial decisions, court battles with employees and clashes with the broadcasting regulator.

New editorial decisions by the public broadcaster included banning the airing of violent protests and stopping the practice of reading newspaper headlines on air.

In contrast to recent comments made by leaders in the ANC, Muthambi said on Thursday: “I think I must say upfront, without fear or favour, I like the decision taken by the SABC. It’s one state-owned company I’m proud of in the sense that they took a decision to say ‘we are not going to allow advertising of the print media, we’ve got our own platforms’.”

Muthambi, speaking at a community newspaper event, also questioned those who were claiming there was censorship at the SABC and that she had been silent on the matter. “People have been discussing this debate of censorship. There has been a hype and the people are saying where is the minister of communications, why is she so quiet? Not that we don’t know what to say,” she said.

“But censorship? I don’t know what you mean by censorship.”

Since the ban, the SABC has had to fend off a barrage of litigation characterised by legal flip flops and backtracking.

The broadcaster remained defiant after the Independent Communications Authority of SA (Icasa) ruled that it withdraw the decision to ban protest footage.

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and communications subcommittee head Jackson Mthembu have criticised the SABC for its decision to ban the airing of violent protests, which they said went against the party’s own policies. The ANC also questioned the competence of management at the SABC.

Mthembu even summoned Muthambi to Luthuli House to explain developments at the public broadcaster, but Muthambi never arrived for the meeting.

This was not the first time she had snubbed her own party.

In October 2015, Muthambi also did not pitch when the same subcommittee summoned her to explain why she had ignored ANC policy on digital encryption.

Following her recent no-show, the matter was taken up by ANC national officials, who deferred the crisis at the SABC to Parliament.

Parliament resumes its business on August 16 and the portfolio committee on communications is expected to sit later in the month. In the meantime, the committee has expressed concern at what was happening at the SABC.

On Thursday, Muthambi accused commercial media of writing negatively about the government and feeding propaganda to the public. “Is this the propaganda we’re feeding our people to believe that there’s nothing happening in the country?”