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SABC’s ’Special Assignment’ gagged from airing untruthful, incorrect allegations

By Loyiso Sidimba Time of article published Oct 20, 2021

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THE SABC’s flagship investigative television programme, Special Assignment, has been gagged by the South Gauteng High Court from broadcasting a show containing false accusations against several companies.

Judge Sharise Weiner this week provided reasons for granting the application by FirstAssist, FirstHelp, Bluespec Holdings and FirstGroup to interdict the broadcasting, airing and publishing of the episode on September 14 just about half an hour before it was about to be shown on television.

The judge granted the interdict after the director of another company, Precision Towing, admitted in court to providing untrue information to one of the public broadcaster’s investigative journalists attached to the programme.

Precision Towing director Alpheus Ntshebeleng Ngoako told the court in an affidavit about the problems that had existed between FirstAssist, FirstHelp, Bluespec Holdings and FirstGroup and Precision Towing relating to certain service level agreements and certain acts of violence and intimidation that took place between these entities.

The four companies accused Precision Towing, its directors and employees had an ulterior motive to provide untrue information to the SABC and had previously obtained an interdict against one of Precision Towing’s employees, identified in court as Mr Olckers.

In her judgment ex tempore (on the spur of the moment, without premeditation) delivered on Monday, Judge Weiner said Ngoako told the court that negotiations between the parties had not succeeded and in an attempt to bring pressure to bear on FirstAssist, FirstHelp, Bluespec Holdings and FirstGroup he decided to approach an investigative journalist and presented what appeared to be a “David-and-Goliath” story in which Precision Towing had been and was at the mercy of the four companies.

”He (Ngoako) set out the details of these disputes and what he states is as follows: ’In essence, I repeated and tried to breathe light into the incorrect and untruthful allegations that Mr Olckers has previously told to me and subsequently told to the court’,” reads the judgment.

Ngoako further explained to the court: “I did not intend these allegations to be published by the journalist as I believed that enquiries by her of FirstAssist's representatives would immediately bring them to the negotiating table.”

He also stated that he regretted his actions in approaching and misleading the journalist about the four companies’ alleged anti-competitive behaviour.

The SABC informed the companies that it intended to air the programme, telling them that they could reply in a later episode.

”What appears from the papers and from the affidavit of Ngoako is that, on a prima facie basis, what the SABC intends to air is based on untruthful and incorrect allegations which have now been withdrawn by the main antagonist in this matter,” Judge Weiner said.

She also found that for this reason she did not believe that the programme should go ahead without further investigation and that FirstAssist, FirstHelp, Bluespec Holdings and FirstGroup were entitled to the order they sought.

”There is no irreparable prejudice to the SABC if the order is granted, and the balance of convenience favours the granting of the relief,” Judge Weiner explained.

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