by Thinus Ferreira
The South African public broadcaster has charged Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, SABC economics editor, with 3 charges of misconduct, the first of which could see her get fired if she is found guilty in a disciplinary hearing for allegedly calling a staffer a "rat", as well as for alleged "services misconduct in the form of gross negligence" for not signing freelancer invoices.
The SABC's charges against its own economics editor come after 621 staffers lost their jobs at the public broadcaster at the end of March in a highly acrimonious retrenchment process with Thandeka Gqubule-Mkebi who became one of the outspoken staffers against the way that the SABC conducted its retrenchment process.
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki allegedly intimidated a freelance SABC staffer, Judith Tseke, and allegedly called her a rat for refusing to take part in public protest action at the SABC earlier this year against the retrenchment process.
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki has been charged with alleged misconduct with the charge sheet saying "On 20 January 2021, on the 3rd floor at the SABC TV Centre in Auckland Park, you intimidated Khudu Judith Tseke by uttering the following words: 'She must not be a rat and join the protest'."
If she is found guilty of this charge, Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki could lose her job at the SABC.
In a second charge, Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki allegedly used "unseemly/offensive language and behaviour" because she "behaved in a manner that is not appropriate, unbecoming and not in line with the values of the SABC in that your language and behaviour was offensive and unseemly towards a fellow employee".
In a third charge, Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki allegedly contravened the Public Finance Management Act by not following due process in signing the invoices of a freelancer.
The SABC's charge sheet alleges that Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki "acted contrary to the above-mentioned provisions and you are therefore guilty of services misconduct in the form of gross negligence".
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki told The Pretoria News that Bongumusa Makhathini (SABC board chairman), Madoda Mxakwe (SABC CEO) and Phathiswa Magopeni (SABC News boss) were behind an alleged campaign to vilify her and to for her and others out of SABC News and at the SABC.
"The charges are entirely bogus and untrue. They are part of a long programme of whistle-blower victimisation and I’m not the only leader of the anti-retrenchment and the anti-commercialisation movement they are gunning for," Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki told the newspaper.
"If you look at the first charge, it leads to the second charge which is a splitting of the charges, which is not allowed. Charge one never happened. There was a discussion between myself and a young lady and Sophie Mokoena and that's it."
Mmoni Seapolelo, SABC spokesperson, said that "The SABC can confirm there is a formal process underway about the matter".
"Two of the charges relate to an affidavit submitted by a fellow journalist containing allegations of harassment and intimidation. The other emanates from an internal forensic audit process. Therefore, the claim the CEO and head of news are behind the charges is rejected with the contempt it deserves".
"The SABC is obliged to protect all employees, create a productive working environment, maintain organisational discipline and ensure good governance across the board."