Cape Town – The impasse on the appointment of the SABC board should be resolved in two days, Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo told Parliament on Tuesday morning.
The interim SABC board’s term expired last Tuesday (September 26), without President Jacob Zuma bothering to appoint the board recommended to him by Parliament three weeks prior.
Zuma was “still applying his mind” and the Presidency later clarified that they were verifying the qualifications of the recommended board members.
Dlodlo told the portfolio committee on communications on Tuesday that it is because Zuma was previously left “with egg on his face”.
In December 2014, former SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala resigned before Zuma could fire her, as was recommended by Parliament, who found that she lied about her qualifications. She was also serving on Zuma’s Advisory Council on Broad-Based BEE at the time.
Tshabalala was spotted in Parliament in May as a guest of former communications minister Faith Muthambi, when the latter delivered her first budget speech as minister of public service and administration.
Dlodlo said there was also a previous Media Development and Diversity Agency (MDDA) board member appointed who has a criminal record.
She said her department initially didn’t provide the Presidency with any information, as the Presidency is the appointing authority and the department has no legislative authority in the appointment of the SABC board.
She said “we panicked” as the interim board’s last day came, and enquiries revealed that further information was required.
She said the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) undertook to provide the information required by Thursday.
“They did not say to us that Parliament verified the qualifications,” Dlodlo said. “We know there was pre-screening done by the SSA (State Security Agency).”
DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who last week called on Zuma to appoint the board “immediately”, said she appreciates the undertaking that the information will be provided in two days and that the Presidency wanted to check qualifications, but this should have been done within the deadline.
She said without a board, the SABC is without a “vanguard to protect it from capture”.
At the same meeting on Tuesday, the Auditor General’s Alice Muller warned that without a CEO and board, there isn’t adequate control in an organisation.
She said she wrote a letter to then-communications minister Yunus Carrim in September 2013, which highlighted many issues, including a dysfunctional board, the high vacancy rate in senior positions, and a high level of non-compliance.
She said these issues are still affecting the broadcaster and it is essential that the board, when it is appointed, go back to these longstanding matters.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) in the meantime has issued a statement saying Zuma must be held accountable for plunging the SABC into a “governance vacuum” through his lack of action.
The party said that should the public broadcaster suffer any governance deficit, or any loss through Zuma’s inaction, he must be held liable.
“The president is sitting on Parliament’s recommended names for appointment to the SABC board, while the term of the interim board that did its best to turn around the ailing public broadcaster has expired,” the statement reads.
“President Zuma’s inaction has opened a governance vacuum at the SABC and must be viewed by all South Africans as a cause for serious concern.”
They called on Zuma to act, and stop wasting any further time.
For large parts of the 2016/17 financial year – in which the broadcaster had a loss of R977m – the SABC didn’t have a full board.
From December 2016, there was no board after former chairperson Mbulaheni Obert Maguvhe resigned following a failed court bid to stop the ad hoc committee that investigated the SABC board, and gruelling interrogation before the committee.
After the ad hoc committee recommended that the previous board be disbanded, Parliament appointed an interim board of five members, led by Khanyisile Kweyama.
This board was widely praised for the way in which they turned the SABC around, and have all been nominated to the new permanent board.
Parliament adopted the board recommendations on September 6. The candidates for the board are Michael Markovitz, Khanyisile Kweyama, Mathatha Tsedu, Nomvuyiso Batyi, Rachel Kalidass, Victor Rambau, John Matisonn, Jack Phalane, Krish Naidoo, Febe Potgieter-Gqubule, Dinkanyane Mohuba and Bonbumusa Makhathini. DM