taking a stand for local content and our nation's voice

1 OCT 2009

Johannesburg, 1 Oct 2009

The hunger coalition announced this morning that production assistant Zamambo Tshabalala has now reached her 25th day without food as the latest step in the coalition’s rolling protest to call for an ethical public broadcaster.

“I’m amazed actually,” Tshabalala says. “I no longer want food. Now it’s just a question of having enough strength. I have felt dizzy a few times in the mornings, but if I sleep enough, take a nap, whatever, I feel terrific.”

The coalition will be holding a press conference on the morning of Tuesday October 6 at 9 AM at Atlas Studios in Milpark. At this conference, Tshabalala will break her fast and answer questions about her experience. At the same time, the next protestor will be introduced who will take over from Tshabalala.

The protest started almost two months ago now, when director/producer Michael Lee, stopped eating as a way to demand transparency and partnership from the SABC and especially to highlight the threatened slashing of local content. He reached 30 days before resuming food amid pressure from family and colleagues.

Lee handed over to six other protestors. Five stopped short of their original vows of 21 days, including the student producer and director of a documentary about the protest. Meanwhile, Tshabalala has just kept going.

The coalition is encouraged that emerging talent such as Zama has shown such resolute determination to change the landscape at the SABC.  Her determination is a shining example of the pool of emerging talent within South Africa who want their voices heard and acknowledged.

Tshabalala said “Most people close to me have said that taking a stand with my body, myself like this is ridiculous. They don’t seem to understand what is at stake.  Or what I’ve gotten from this experience – one thing I have learned is I am capable of far more than others think I am, or than even I think I am.”

Tshabalala points out that the crisis is only now starting to reach the average person’s consciousness now that programs are being affected.  The South African audience is staring to sit up and take notice.

“The last couple days on SABC1 and 2, the screen, a couple times, just went black, and stayed that way. Once on the news, it cut to another program for a few seconds, and then back. Now people are really starting to wonder what is going on there.”

Last week the Cape Argus reported that both current and previous employees of the SABC could face criminal charges and that some of these individuals would be suspended. On Tuesday this week, the Sowetan and other publications reported that three specific executives had in fact been suspended.

When asked if this move gives hope to the hunger protestors, Lee expressed ambivalence: “It’s good to see action. But whether this leads to the values of transparency, accountability, respect, and humanity, being followed at the SABC as a national public broadcaster remains to be seen.”

Gwen Britz, a co-founder of the protest, is cautious. As a media placement specialist she is concerned that the imminent suspension of staff at the SABC was reported in the media prior to the suspensions being effected: “The reports being issued in the public domain, in advance, via the media, is concerning as it does not appear to follow due process required by the Labour Act”.

In Britz’ view, supported by research she has done since the announcement, Disciplinary Codes and Grievance Procedures already in place at the SABC may well be violated by the way things have been done. If so, she says, “this could just lead to more golden handshakes rather than tangible results.”



  Nina Allchurch wrote @

Hunger striking will not transform the status quo, it merely provokes further negativity around the obvious. Focus on creating pitches that sponsors will want to fund and get them on-air, people! The SABC is happy to go with 100% Advertiser-funded proposals – so come on, use this opportunity. We have to make our context work for us … I respect … Read morethe hunger strike, but this will not generate new commissions …. The only way to topple a monolith is to work from within …. Will the agitators for change please roll up their sleeves and get inside the SABC to change it from within. The placement of unskilled or inappropriate staff within the SABC is the result of our past, and yes, it has resulted in mismanagement – Let’s be adult and understand that teething problems can be ironed out … Okay, notwithstanding that Mark Burnett may be first in-line to topple the monolith for once and for all … Let’s make TV, people.

  Kai wrote @

Today, by pure luck or accident i ended up filming some B-roll in Poorthuis Room V045, Parliament in Cape Town. The very room where the tiresome discussion about what to do about and with the SABC was going down. I spent 15 minutes getting my shots and was quite surprised at how slow the proceedings were going and also how little i felt while standing right there in the middle of the “action-less” room. The mood: gloom and the overhead lights buzzing with no interest. A solution? Not today…

  percy wrote @

oh! sabc sucks they killing our industry in every way

  hungerprotest wrote @

well percy – why not join the protest??

  brett wrote @

today “SABC” pushed me out into the cold. a week before the new season starts on the 5th oct, we found out our contacts wont be signed,even after all the promises and reassuraces from commisioning editor. A weeks notice for 10years of industry service.

  hungerprotest wrote @

Brett – what show was this? Had you spent money on production?

  Thabiso wrote @

Well we all know that when the SABC says to take action it will take forever the lights go on,unless that action is a negative down the hill one then we know that will happen overnight. The sooner people realise that this industry is heading down hill in a breakless cart, the sooner we(together) would be able to figure out a plan to stop this cart. I know a lot of you people visit this blog spot,but i can’t figure out why you don’t wanna join in on the protest, think next year and beyond then you will get and see the picture. The protest is not to destroy, but to build. We don’t use violence, appropriate manners together with communications to get the message across. We are not against the SABC, we are for the SABC, only against their ways of doing things. So urge you to join this protest for the industry’s sake!

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