The time to pay your TV licence is now – well, almost
- Wayne Duvenage
- 02 Aug 2017 11:37 (South Africa)
Over the past couple of years the public has driven a self-motivated campaign to revolt against the SABC by withholding the payment of TV licences, thanks largely to Hlaudi Motsoeneng’s brazen 90% local policy content decision, combined with his outrageous conduct in purging talent, the fraudulent awarding of contracts and his receipt of unsubstantiated salary increases and bonuses.
Government’s growing crisis of legitimacy – caused by poor governance, rising corruption and maladministration – has directly stimulated public defiance campaigns. We’ve seen this with e-tolls, traffic fines and more recently, the TV licence revolt. While the law is clear that not paying one’s TV licence is a criminal offence, it is extremely difficult to manage or enforce when the defiance is widespread and costly to challenge.
So what’s changed and why advocate that the time is now to reverse the mini-tax revolt on TV licences? It wasn’t long ago that I openly sided with the view that a focused revolt on the TV tax appears to be justified.
It’s quite straightforward really – when a new board comes into operation and delivers, they need recognition of their outstanding work. Not frivolous work though or promises about action, but instead a rapid address of the SABC’s past errors. In just a few months, they suspended and charged the past CFO and acting CEO, James Aguma. They laid claims against Hlaudi Motsoeneng to recover his bonuses and costs of maladministration. They cancelled fraudulent contracts, reversed the shocking local content decision and won the court challenge against LornaVision for the outsourced TV licence collection process. Their actions have been swift and decisive, working hard to undo the damage with corrective action and with consequences for those who have caused this once proud institution, its employees and the public, untold pain.
This interim board has been highly effective in its attempts to turn around a state entity that had lost its moral compass, which is a rare feat in today’s government. Their work sits in the same league as Popo Molefe’s Prasa board who took to undoing the corrupt contracts and maladministration of previous leadership.
What the interim SABC Board now needs is the public’s acknowledgement of their outstanding efforts, and a direct manner thereof would be to help them return their revenue streams to the levels they achieved in the past, from advertising and TV licences. This way, the SABC will be able to demonstrate to their shareholders – the state – that returning defunct institutions to good governance and accountability has positive consequences, enabling profitability and removing its reliance on tax bailouts.
The overriding question is will the current interim board be appointed as the permanent board in a few month’s time, and will the new board continue with the work undertaken by the interim board? Additionally, will the new board give us the assurance that:
- They will not again outsource their TV licence debt collection to external parties who become unduly or unreasonably enriched through the process.
- They will continue to hold accountable all corrupt people and those who benefited from tenders awarded through prior leadership misconduct, seeking all avenues to repatriate the ill-gotten gains.
- They will seek to bring back the talent purged by the past corrupt leadership and look into halting current CCMA and labour court cases against staff who were instrumental in limiting the damages done by Motsoeneng and his cronies.
- The new board will be transparent in their dealings related to future senior management appointments.
- They will be transparent when it comes to tender processes undertaken and ensure the people are convinced that the PFMA and due processes are followed to the letter.
If indeed the SABC board is able to convince the people that they are on track to rebuild the SABC as a credible institution, sustainably true to its mandate, with a strong board that will stand up and challenge political meddling or interference, I will commit to paying my TV licence forthwith. I will encourage business to reconsider their advertising spend with the SABC and ask the public to shower the new board with messages of thanks and congratulations for the return of good governance to the SABC.
We need more successes of this nature and the actions of a supportive public will send a strong message to other government departments, State-Owned Enterprises and metros: Work with the people and you will receive their support. Work against them and waste their hard-earned taxes, and you will feel their wrath. This is the other side of active citizenry – giving recognition and support to government when it is due. DM