SAFM’s flagship breakfast show AM Live is to lose its veteran presenter
John Perlman, hard on the heels of the departure of colleague Nikiwe
Bikitsha, writes Bate Felix.

Bikitsha is to leave the station at the end of January, to join the soon to be lunched CNBC Africa in April as a presenter.  Perlman told that he is leaving the station at the end of February, leaving the station’s most successful and respected show without hosts.

Perlman said he did not want to discuss the reasons for his departure.  He added that he does not know what he is going to be doing next.

However, Business Day reported that Perlman was leaving the SABC because it was unwilling to address a commission's finding that there was an atmosphere of fear and distrust reigning at the national broadcaster. Last year, a commission was created to look into a controversial report that the SABC had blacklisted certain commentators.

When the news become public, the SABC tried to deny it but Perlman confronted the SABC's spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago on the air, and said that he, Perlman, knew there was a blacklist, something Kganyago had denied.Following these controversies, SABC's chief executive, Dali Mpofu, ordered a commission of inquiry into the allegations.

The commission found that SABC staff were indeed instructed to exclude certain commentators from commenting on certain issues.It also found that Perlman had been presented with an official statement from the SABC which he knew from personal experience to be untrue, and had correctly chosen to confront it. It concluded that there was an atmosphere of fear in the SABC newsrooms, which was not conducive to journalistic independence.

However, SABC management created further uproar when they refused to divulge the complete report to the public as requested by the commission. Nevertheless, it was later published by the Mail & Guardian. The management of the public broadcaster drew further criticism when Perlman was asked for explanations, amid indications that he would face a disciplinary hearing after being accused of “bringing the organisation into disrepute by contradicting its official spokesperson on air, without exhausting internal procedures”.

Reacting to both resignations on January 30, Kganyago, SABC head of group communications, said “at the moment, we cannot comment on them since they happened only last night”. He added that the group executive was meeting and they would only be commenting at a later stage.

However, there is great anxiety at SAFM as to what will become of the widely respected show.“We worry about the effect it is going to have on the programme but there’s nothing much we can do,” said Jake Mokoma, AM Live producer.

“I can tell you that these issues are going to feature at the upcoming editorial meetings,” he said, adding that he had no idea who would be replacing them. He would have to wait for a decision from SABC management, he said.