The eight received the honour after being victimised, had their lives threatened and were even shot at. One has subsequently died of stress cardiomyopathy, literally known as broken heart syndrome, which is caused by trauma and unnatural stress.
The Media Online reports the eight were honoured at a gala dinner held during the 20th Annual Southern Africa Internal Audit Conference at the Sandton Convention Centre. Last year’s winner was former public protector, Thuli Madonsela. The award is given to those who uphold the prescripts of good governance and display remarkable ethical behaviour.
The SABC 8 are Busisiwe Ntuli, Lukhanyo Calata, Thandeka Gqubule, Foeta Krige, Krivani Pillay, Jacques Steenkamp, Vuyo Mvoko, now a senior news anchor with eNCA, and the late Suna Venter.
Speaking at the event Calata said “we in the media will always be under attack. So, we need to be vigilant and take deliberate steps to defend the freedom of the media because, in effect, we are defending democracy.” He added that it was “both humbling and an honour to be recognised by an institution such as the IIA SA”.
The Media Online quotes the executive producer for SAFM, Krivani Pillay, who said she and her colleagues did not expect to be lauded for their actions. “However, it is quite an honour because the public broadcaster is our broadcaster and there is a need to save it from political and outside pressure,” she said.
The SABC 8 were initially fired by the public broadcaster for protesting against changes to its editorial policy. Management made a unilateral decision to not screen visuals of violent service delivery-related protests. They took their case to the Labour Court which overturned their axing and they were reinstated. But they faced a barrage of intimidation and threats both during and after their legal battle.
The true horror, however, emerged following radio producer Venter’s death earlier this year. Venter, 32, died of stress cardiomyopathy, which is known as ‘broken heart syndrome’. It is caused by trauma and unnatural stress.
In paying tribute to Venter and her colleagues, IIA SA CEO, Dr Claudelle von Eck said: “She was shot in the face, had her car brakes tampered with and tyres slashed, her home had been broken into on several occasions and she was even abducted and tied to a tree while a ring of fire was lit around it. Her case highlighted the lengths to which she and her colleagues were victimised. And we have yet to fully hear their stories.”
She said the SABC 8 case highlighted that media freedom in South Africa was sacrosanct. She lauded the eight for holding truth to power – and in this case within their very own organisation.
Calata, meanwhile, said those behind the campaign against him and his colleagues “targeted the most vulnerable among us for their actions”.
“Suna was a young, white, single woman who lived alone. I am just astounded by how incredibly brave she was. She bore it on our behalf and I will be forever indebted to her for her strength and bravery,” he said.