Solidarity has already served summons on the SABC. It comes after the public broadcaster summarily cancelled the freelance contract of one of the country’s most senior sports commentators, Pieter van den Berg, without – allegedly after allegations of racism – with complete disregard to any evidence, including two polygraph tests.
According to Solidarity Deputy General Secretary Johan Kruger, the SABC has with this act once again shown that although the broadcaster relies heavily on the expertise of hundreds of freelancers, their interests are not being looked after. “Diane Riemer, the general manager of production – radio sport, unilaterally revoked Van den Berg’s contract without even considering his side of the story,” Kruger said.
Kruger furthermore explained that after numerous meetings no agreement could be reached and that Solidarity would thus approach the High Court at this stage. “The issue arose from an outside broadcast of a Super Rugby match in Durban on 7 May. Van den Berg had asked a technical controller to perform his duties correctly. The controller arrived late for his call, was under the influence of alcohol, violating stadium rules in the process, and offended other members of staff. After the incident the controller accused Van den Berg of having made offensive and racist comments aimed at him,” Kruger explained.
According to Kruger, the courts have already demonstrated in many court cases that false allegations of racism would not be tolerated. “False accusations of racism by employees in a bid to cover up their own wrongdoings have become the trend in South Africa. This action in itself offers grounds for dismissal. It is regrettable that the SABC chose to ignore the technical controller’s behaviour while it should have investigated the matter properly,” Kruger said.
Van den Berg’s involvement in sport broadcasts goes back 34 years when he started to broadcast and present sports programmes. He has been a commentator for more than 30 different types of sport. Viewers also came to know him as the presenter of Teletien, TV4 Sport and Topsport on television, and for many years his voice has been heard on radio. Since 2009, he has been a regular rugby and sports commentator on RSG and his coverage also included the London Olympic Games. He has also been the daily sports reporter for the Afrikaans actuality programme, Monitor. At the time of the cancellation of his contract, Van den Berg was RSG’s sports organiser and executive producer at SABC Sport.