The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) mourns the tragic passing of SABC radio producer Suna Venter, one of the brave SABC 8 journalists who fought to defend free speech and stop censorship in our public broadcaster.
She was one of a eight SABC journalists who were fired, and later reinstated, for objecting to former COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s policy of no longer airing footage of violent protests. They were the voice of those trying to stop the rot that was turning our public broadcaster into a factional voice for the corrupt elite which has been turning our country into a kleptocracy
Her death at only 32 years had been diagnosed as being caused by a cardiac condition known as stress cardiomyopathy or “Broken Heart Syndrome”, which could cause rapid and severe heart muscle weakness. Her family have said that “Those closest to her believe that her condition was exacerbated, if not caused, by the events of the past year”.
Despite the reinstatement of the 8 and a subsequent Parliamentary Ad Hoc Committee investigation into the affairs of the SABC, she continued to suffer from intimidation, victimisation and death threats.
She received threatening messages on her phone and was assaulted on three occasions, including being shot in the face with a pellet gun at the beginning of 2017, after coming out of a restaurant, and required surgery to remove the metal pellets from her face.
“Her flat was broken into on numerous occasions,” said her family, “The brake cables of her car were cut and her car’s tyres were slashed. She was shot at and abducted – tied to a tree at Melville Koppies while the grass around her was set alight”.
There can be no doubt that these attacks were connected to the SABC’s brutal campaign against her and all the other SABC staff who fought for a free, democratic and independent public broadcaster.
SAFTU hails her as a martyr for the cause of freedom of expression and for a media which is a forum for all South Africans to free express their views.
This is a fight which goes on, as we see in the news of intimidatory pickets outside the homes of editors by the “Black First – Land First” group – which is part of the same faction corrupt crony capitalists as Hlaudi Motsoeneng at the SABC.
Irrespective of the views of the journalists targeted, we must not tolerate attempts to deny them the right to publish those views through threats and intimidation.
SAFTU will continue to fight against the domination of the media by big business who use it to defend the interests of their class and the country’s wealthy elite, but neither can we support a campaign by a rival faction of corrupt capitalists whose sole aim is to stifle attempt to uncover their systematic looting of state resources.
The best memorial to Suna Venter will be to intensify the campaign against censorship and for a truly independent media which reflects all the people of South Africa, especially the workers and the poor whose voice is still largely unheard the commercial media.
SAFTU will also press ahead with its plans for its own workers’ and socialist media hub, which will provide a platform for all those who want to see the end of a capitalist system and a democratic socialist society, in which, in the words of the Freedom Charter “All the cultural treasures of mankind shall be open to all, by free exchange of books, ideas and contact with other lands”.