#SABC journalists head to Labour Court: Constitutional democracy will win, Hlaudi will lose

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Solidarity says its application to the Labour Court isn’t only about the disciplinary action against the journalists, but also a challenge of South African constitutional democracy.

The trade union, which is representing four of the fired SABC 8 – Krivani Pillay, Suna Venter, Foeta Krige and Jacques Steenkamp – announced on Monday it would be approaching the Labour Court today.

The union will request the Labour Court to set aside the decision to dismiss the journalists and to revoke the disciplinary process in its entirety, pending the rulings given in the various legal processes against the decision to ban violent protest footage.

It will also request that the SABC establish who in the organisation was responsible for the decision to dismiss the journalists, and that the court grant a cost order against those persons in their individual capacity.

Below are copies of the amended notice of motion to be handed over.

Soldarity said the SABC’s opposition papers are not ready for today’s hearing and expect that the public broadcaster will ask for a hearing postponement.

“They had however been given enough time and prior notice and this is nothing but another attempt to frustrate and avoid legal processes,” Solidarity chief executive, Dirk Hermann said.

The SABC must within three days of receiving this order, indicate who took the decision to dismiss the journalists and within five days, the decision makers must state why they fired them.

“This case is of major public interest and there is the utmost urgency about it both for the journalists and the South African public,” Hermann added, saying postponement cannot be granted as a result of ‘male fide’ delaying tactics.

Icasa ruling binding

According to Solidarity, Icasa’s ruling, which the SABC has now decided to abide by, is binding until the Supreme Court should decide to set it aside in a review process.

“If the decision [to ban violent protest footage] is unlawful, then all actions arising from it, including, disciplinary action, too are unlawful,” Hermann said.

Protect rights to freedom of expression

Solidarity also wants the journalists’ rights to freedom of expression to be protected as the SABC is using “unlawful tactics” to instil a culture of fear among journalists and it is denying them the right to freedom of expression.

“The country is on the eve of the most controversial local government elections and in this period, journalists are being suspended, dismissed and the entire SABC is being intimidated by a culture of fear,” Hermann said.

As far as Hlaudi Motsoeneng is concerned, SABC management’s authority reigns supreme. One does not dare undermine it. Even when an instruction undermines unconstitutional principles, management’s authority is not to be undermined, the trade union said.

Solidarity said the interest in the SABC saga has taken on such proportions because Motsoeneng is challenging constitutional democracy.

“I salute the journalists who have been fired, they have become symbols of constitutional democracy. They deserve a constitutional pat on the back and not dismissal without a hearing and simply via email,” Hermann concluded.