In Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s world everybody gets a trophy even if they churn out mediocre TV and music, writes Madala Thepa.
Johannesburg – SABC chief operations officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng can connect with his audience with the soothing indifference of a street chap. No fancy word codes. No word play but a virtuosic facility with the English language that is straightforwardly hilarious.
Hlaudi is the only person on the planet at this moment who can really crack you up – the first in the story of the national broadcaster to connect with his audience.
The others were stiff even to look at, morose and miserable – visors wrought from stone.
They were decent hardworking individuals dressed up in business jargon. They didn’t know how to play like Hlaudi.
Hlaudi is a rare member of the national broadcaster. He is loved by some because he is not afraid to drive into oncoming traffic with his tongue.
But he is also effective in provoking uneasiness.
His is to push officialdom over the edge of paradise.
Hlaudi does what others are afraid to do in their honorific status – talk bluntly and make decisions, however unfavourable.
At the occasion of the announcement of contracts for local TV and film productions, he promised a gift card of a million rands and a good working relationship. He had free range on the microphone.
He was at home, unchained and really unloading his thoughts. Spokesperson of the SABC Kaiser Kganyago had to step in now and then to cut the overflow. But he just ignored him.
He simply continued and concluded by saying journalists are free to ask the difficult questions. But the same “difficult” questions were cut off by him.
On the question of sunshine journalism that the SABC is practising, he was not relenting.
“These buildings that are being burned belong to all of us,” he explained. “We can’t give these people airtime to burn institutions that also belong to us. It does not make sense. It would seem we are encouraging this,” he said. In another interview he said: “It does not matter whether it’s 90 percent or 50-50 of news. What I meant was you can’t always have bad stories in the air. We need to get good stories on air too.
“South Africa is not about bad stories only. There are good stories out there and good projects to report on.”
Turning his focus on the journalism as practised at the SABC, he was self-flagellating.
“We should not get stories from print media. It should be the other way around. Print media should get stories from us.
“Our own journalists now are following print media. We are changing that culture and we must break stories.
“We don’t want to rely on news agencies. We are the agency.
We want good journalism. And now we have appointed new people and we want to see results.
“My belief is that journalists should not be in the office. They should be out there on the streets getting stories.
“Some of us in our time we broke stories and the newspapers were following us.
“The papers were following the SABC. So we have the resources, the tools are there for the people to deliver,” he says.
“How do you get stories sitting in the office with a telephone? So I celebrate journalists who go out there to get stories.”
While others think introspectively, Hlaudi allows what comes to mind to hit the audience.
He doesn’t fret much about word structure. He lets his thoughts flow.
It is said that Communications Minister Faith Muthambi once said “He is loved by uBaba” and needed to be appointed as COO – referring to how President Jacob Zuma is so fond of Hlaudi.
Everyone who is loved by uBaba has some comedic qualities bestowed on them.
Julius Malema comes to mind. UBaba is also a comedic genius. Unchained by punctuation-free speeches, he can also deliver the macabre and hilarious.
So you can imagine a friendly banter exchange between the two away from the practised gestures when they meet and when spokespersons or aides are not around to cut the fluff.
Hlaudi’s legacy is dependent on the two projects that the media seem to suggest are “reckless” and “unattainable” – the 90 percent South African music airplay and the opportunity given to TV and film productions that are black owned.
Opening opportunities for local artists and black production companies is his revolutionary executive action.
It says this is not over-the-top vain. The stakes are African.
Hlaudi is loved by many junior SABC staff who know special privileges and his good heart. He is loathed by the DA and the social media. The rest of us snotty-nosed twirl our toes in embarrassment when he talks and hang our heads in shame when he veers off the official script.
But up there on 27th floor of the SABC headquarters, things line up nicely.
They say it on the ground floor that Hlaudi is the go-to-guy, approachable, dependable and amenable – basically good people touting his humility.
“Controversial” is a media-word-construct.
We have made him out to be like a Nazi memorabilia – a problem to keep around. Ordinary folks get him.
The DA wanted him out – took him and the SABC to court and ended at the Supreme Court of Appeal which held that “remedial action by the Public Protector has legal effect and cannot be ignored by the state and public institutions.”
His disciplinary case was said to be a well choreographed farce. And according to people who know these things, it was fixed.
But here at the headquarters there is a powerful factor of the majority that – like uBaba – truly loves him.
The Hlaudinistas are overpopulating.
Ninety percent of airplay of South African music has brought him to the popular stage.
The likes of Mzwakhe Mbuli feted him with a song to thank him for his efforts as the voice of the dispossessed.
Now he has the TV and film productions happy that he has opened the doors for them too.This is to say revolutions are no longer coming from the hands of the smart, esoteric of minds but from the comedic geniuses of Hlaudi’s make.
In Hlaudi’s world everyone gets a trophy. Even when the local productions churn out mediocre television and artists cook up soppy songs, Hlaudi has given them the opportunity of a lifetime.
When is Hlaudi’s show going to come to an end after it’s been in town for so long? Only uBaba can tell.
The Sunday Independent