The SABC now admits that a "security audit" has taken place inside the SABC's offices, done by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA) inside the public broadcaster's Durban offices to "ensure that there's no threat to the efficient operations of the broadcaster".
The nationa security secret invasion and the secret investigation conducted inside the SABC, with SABC permission, and not made known beforehand or during the audit by the SABC to SABC staff, is allegedly to "ensure the security of various state-owned entities in compliance with the National Key Point requirements," says SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kgangayo.
Interestingly, the SABC used to be a public broadcaster according to the Broadcasting Act, belonging not to the state but to the people of South Africa as defined under the South African Constitution.
The South African National Editors Forum (Sanef) calles the State Security Agency's (SSA) spying inside the SABC "outrageous".
"We at Sanef believe an investigation should be conducted by higher authorities," says Sanef deputy media freedom chairperson, Raymond Louw. "What the SSA had done was a violation of constitutional freedom and outreageous".
The State Security Agency (SSA) says SABC staff should be asking the SABC CEO why the investigation is happening since the SSA worked inside the SABC on request of the SABC.
"The SABC needs to explain to its staff what is happening," says Brian Dube, State Security Agency spokesperson. "The allegations emanated from the staff".
Brian Dube says "the SABC CEO must deal with the questions" and that "government departments and public entities invited the agency to assist with various activities".
Trade union Bemawu's president Hannes du Buisson blasted the SABC earlier this week, writing to new SABC CEO Frans Matlala demanding explanations for the secret spying going on inside the SABC, and saying that SABC workers were ordered to keep quiet, that the investigation and presence of spies damage and comprises what's left of the SABC's integrity, and asking why the secret operation has not been communicated by the SABC to the SABC's own staff.
SABC spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago called the secret investigation "standard procedure" done to "constantly identify threats towards acts of terror, espionage and other related risks".
Kaizer Kganyago said "The SABC would like to put it on record that this process is not in any way a move to undermind the corporation's business units, instill fear among staff members or invade their privacy."
Sadly, shockingly, this is exactly what has happened through this process: SABC workers are scared, suspicious, have been deliberately kept in the dark, are wondering what's going on, have not been communicated with, don't feel valued and trusted and are fearing what's going on.
SABC staff and managers are extremely concerned that their offices are bugged.
Bemawu president Hannes du Buisson asked SABC CEO Frans Matlala for "urgent intervention" and an explanation as well as that "this secret operation be stopped".
"We also want an explanation as to why the National Intelligence Agency finds it necessary to put employees out of their offices, invading their privacy and work space, where they spent the majority of the day and a substantial time of their lives."
SABC workers are fearful and scared and worried about the lack of transparency from the public broadcaster.
"Employees are extremely uncomfortable with what is happening, as they are not sure whether secret surveillance equipment is installed in their offices, and if so, why this is happening and necessary," says Hannes du Buisson.
"We do not see any reason for the NIA to lock employees out of their offices, remaining inside alone. The SABC is a workplace, not a law enforcement agency or some secret organisation where NIA agents have free reign."
Political party COPE says in a statement "under Hlaudi Motsoeneng [SABC COO] and Faith Muthambi [South Africa's minister of communications] the public broadcaster will soon become the ABCBC".
"In a vibrant democracy, all self-respecting democrats will take offence if the NIA were to walk into provincial offices of the public broadcaster, which belongs to all of us, and throw out employees from their offices to make secret searches. Furthermore, they would be revolted if the staff were threatened with dismissal if they dared disclose what was happening," says Dennis Bloem, COPE spokesperson.
"This is how, by little steps, tyranny overthrows democracy."
"The NIA's business is to protect the state, not to harass journalists and media workers. They are not the enemy of the state. Every South African should recognise that this is an insidious operation by the NIA."
"COPE wants an explanation from Faith Muthambi. Was this what 'Baba' had wanted her to do and is that why she gladly obliged? Is this what we can expect under her as minister of communication? Or was this instigated by Hlaudi Motsoeneng with her blessing?"
"COPE demands that Faith Muthambi explains to the nation what the NIA was doing at the SABC offices in Durban and why the staff there was treated so contemptuously and aggressively."