The South African National Editors’ Forum is concerned that yet another move to deny the media and the public information concerning state conduct which is clearly in the public interest has occurred in the declaration by the Board of the SA Broadcasting Corporation of confidentiality to cloak the details of the departure and financial package settled on the former SABC Chief Executive Officer Solly Mokoetle.
This is yet another example of the government’s increasing desire to cloak state activities in secrecy as has been exhibited in the appearance of several draft laws—the latest being the Companies Amendment Bill—which have provisions restricting access to information, the holding of parliamentary committee hearings in secret and the refusal of government departments to answer legitimate questions from journalists.
The reason given for maintaining secrecy of the terms of Mokoetle’s resignation and the financial package settled on him—that it was based on a confidentiality agreement between Mokoetle and the board—is unacceptable. Mokoetle was the head of a state-owned institution and was accused of a failure to carry out certain duties. He was paid a financial package in recognition of his decision to resign rather than subject himself to a lengthy and costly disciplinary inquiry. The public have a right to know the details of this senior state official’s departure benefits. The public interest and the fact that public funds could be involved dictate that a full and proper public statement is called for.
Sanef has noted that the secrecy has led to much speculation surrounding the terms of his departure. This result is highly undesirable but the most important reason for public disclosure is the public’s right to know.
Sanef calls on the SABC board to make a public statement immediately.