[OPINION] It Is Silly To Suspend Unathi Msengana For Twar

In my almost 10 years in this business I never thought I would see the day when media houses suspend their talent over altercations that happen on the internet. This week Metro FM DJ Unathi Msengana was reportedly suspended over a heated 'private' exchange with someone on Twitter. 

Before we start talking about 'bringing the company's name into disrepute' and all that corporate hogwash, let's interrogate the facts; 
1. The 19 year old jumped onto a bandwagon of a hashtag that was clearly created to humiliate Msengana. By participating in the mockery, the 19 year old was knowingly engaging in an act to humiliate Msengana. Period. 
2. Unathi's response to the 19 year old was sent to a "Direct Message" , which is a private space on Twitter. The 19 year old chose to screengrab the private exchange and make it public. Further sign that she was seeking attention for this. 
Given the above mentioned facts, can one honestly be ok with the fact that the SABC deemed it necessary to suddenly suspend the DJ? 

Yes, Msengana should never have entertained the tweets, let alone respond to any of it. However, anyone who has ever been at the receiving end of a mockery knows very well that your first instict is to defend your honour. 

By bowing down to social media pressure, the SABC is treading on very dangerous territory of giving people on social media, especially Twitter, too much power. People are already abusing the platforms to bully and spew bigoted rhetoric towards anyone they have an issue with. 

Does the SABC want to empower a culture of bullying that has become a festering "evil" of the modern era and technological advances in communication?

We all know that Twitter is too often used to get attention. Most people on this platform do not care about context or consequences of their words, they just want a retweet or LOLs at the expense of others. 

Nobody on Twitter sought to engage Msengana and understand the context of her comments. Instead a hashtag #UnathiBeLike took on the moment and set the narrative. 

Given that the conversation began on Metro FM, the station should have urged its listeners to engage further on the subject with the station and maybe Msengana. That way, the station would show that they actually care about the subject matter. 

Cowtawing to Twitter's perceived outrage, which is in fact rooted in bully tactics to humiliate celebrities or anyone they have a bone to pick with, the SABC has failed its mandate to be the voice of the people and as an employer to protect its staff. 

The other issue is getting to understand when are employees representatives of the company and when are they just private citizens. If we start suspending people because of what they say in their private capacity on social media, are we not running the risk of having too much interference in employees' personal lives? 

What's next? Are people now going to be suspended for fights they have at parties or with their neighbours? Where do we draw the line? 

If someone sends an SABC employee harrassing messages and the said employee retaliates, are we to expect that should that harrasser make the employee's retaliatory comments public, the employee will be suspended?   

I am sorry but that has a whiff of unfairness to me. We are all entitled to defend ourselves, as long as we are not using the companies we work for's resources or defaming its reputation in our actions in that defense.

It is unfortunate that Msengana, was suspended. One hopes that there was due process followed and that this is not just a result of some screengrabs of a private conversation -- which by the way only shows the conversation because the poster feels comfortable sharing because it makes her look good.  
I am not defending Unathi. I too have issues with her statement. I was shocked by the language she used when it appears that she misinterpreted the "joke". I understand her anger because she was being mocked and bullied. 

My issue is employers now giving people on Twitter the power to affect people's jobs when we know very well that the platform is riddled with bitter, angry and menacing people who do not care about the consequences of their action by use the anonymity the sites gives them to marginalise others. That is a path I am not comfortable with us taking as an industry. 

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