15 April 1999: Max du Preez fired from Special Assignment. Later, at a “victory braai” Zikalala and Phil Molefe allegedly told those present that it was “symbolically important” to purge the SABC of whites like Du Preez. This is covered in depth in a subsequent book by Du Preez, Pale Native: Memories of a Renegade reporter
July 1999: FXI accuses SABC of biased news coverage
August 1999: Sarah Crowe accuses Zikalala of biased news coverage
2 September 1999: The South African Telecommunications Authority (SATRA) issues a press release accusing Zikalala of blatantly false reporting. Zikalala, clearly at the behest of the ANC, has been broadcasting allegations that Nape Maepe, chairman of SATRA, was guilty of corruption. The ANC wanted to reward Saudi interests who had donated $60m to it to help it prepare financially for the 1994 election by giving the Saudi-backed Cell C consortium the lucrative third cellular phone licence. Maepe, a communications engineer with decades of experience and a reputation for impeccable integrity who questioned various dubious aspects of the Cell C bid. The BCCSA finds against Zikalala but Maepe is driven out of SATRA and Cell C gets the licence.
21 September 1999: The Democratic Party accuses Zikalala of bias in TV news coverage. “The last straw for the DP was a lengthy insert in the 8pm bulletin on SABC3 on Sunday, September 19, 1999 reviewing the ANC's performance since June in the first 100 days of the new Government.” Zikalala responds by saying that the SABC “would never become the voice of government”.
15 October 1999: Krisjan Lemmer, the satirical columnist at the Mail & Guardian alleges that Zikalala has set up a rival travel agency within SABC and is attacking the existing agency in the hopes of closing it down and diverting the SABC’s travel business to his own agency.
One has to admire Snuki Zikalala, the energetic captain of the SABC's news team. First he remains a full-time reporter after his meteoric promotion to the top of the public broadcaster's news management. Now it emerges the former labour correspondent has quietly started up his own travel agency.
Could this explain the passionate attack Zikalala launched against the SABC's own in-house travel agent, Indo Jet, in the SABC's internal newsletter?
‘Treat us with respect’, declared the headline in the November 1998 issue of SABC Intercom. In a froth about Indo Jet's allegedly hostile treatment of black managers at the SABC, Zikalala (PhD, Bulgaria) concluded: "We are in the business of news and not accommodation and travelling. Indo Jet's responsibility is to make sure we are not inconvenienced at all.’
It must have slipped the busy executive's mind that earlier last year he and SABC cameraman Stephen Mailes formed their own agency, Travel Byte. Shortly after Zikalala's cri de coeur in Intercom, Travel Byte recruited the manager of Indo Jet at the SABC.
Lemmer hears she was asked to resign from her position after it emerged she had been asking Indo Jet clients whether they would follow her if she left the company.
Zikalala's preoccupation with convenient travel arrangements could explain a recent circular to all news staff instructing them to vet all travel arrangements with him.
Lemmer understands The Indo Jet was recently informed it would have to quit its SABC offices as the commercialisation of the SABC would entail tendering for new travel companies. Dorsbult Ox Wagon Trek Agency is not believed to be in the running.
November 1999: The SABC task team appointed to investigate firing of Max du Preez announces that it can find “no evidence to support allegations of unfair labour practices and infringement of editorial independence by its management.”