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Dali gets surreal

I’m beginning to think there’s something in the water at the SABC. Statements by Dali Mpofu, the chief executive and, ahem, editor-in-chief, make me wonder if it’s not lead.

Mpofu’s latest letter breaking up with the South African National Editors’ Forum is a lesson in how to write with drama, emotion, exaggeration and delusion.

So disgusted is he with the way the media has covered the expose of Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang that he can hardly contain himself: “Shame on all of you, especially those who have turned their backs on your own cultural values for 30 pieces of silver, pretending to be converted to foreign, frigid and feelingless freedoms.”

So let’s just review the recent track record of the SABC editor-in-chief:

  • The blacklisting episode. (This was when Mpofu drew his sword against Sanef and other media commentators in another bizarre letter. In fact, for his spectacularly sarcastic and inappropriate response, see Anton Harber’s July 2006 posting.)
  • Pulling of the Mbeki film — and the subsequent attempt to stop the producers from screening the documentary privately.
  • Losing the PSL broadcast rights, which can only be seen as poor management.
    Active pursuit of indictments against other media.
  • And lest we forget, Sihlali. Ah, Mafika Sihlali, Mpofu’s friend who, according to an internal SABC report, defrauded the corporation of R1,7-million. He escapes Mpofu’s criticism, unlike the newspapers that exposed him.

But, really, what is more worrying is that Mpofu’s rantings are backed by the SABC board, which reportedly unanimously supports the CEO’s decision to cut ties with Sanef. It’s bad enough that Mpofu, who is a lawyer, seems to have such a restricted understanding of rights, but that the board should follow him rather than redirect him should be cause for concern. The board is there to represent the public. And the public’s right to know is what the judge has held up as crucial to democracy in the Sunday Times‘s coverage of Manto. Can someone please join the dots?