What does an estate agent, the chief executive of the company that runs the lottery, the Young Communist League (YCL) leader’s wife, and President Jacob Zuma’s adviser on broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) have in common?
They have been selected by the National Assembly communications portfolio committee to serve on the 12-member board of the state broadcaster. For the first time in the history of the post-1994 board, not a single white person has been chosen, not even a white woman.
Even this is unacceptable in terms of ANC racial engineering. Two candidates with remarkable pedigree in broadcasting, John Matisonn, who cut his teeth at the Independent Broadcasting Authority, and Kate Skinner, a star in the Support Public Broadcasting coalition, got short shrift.
Their names didn’t appear on a list of candidates circulated by the ANC majority on the committee earlier this month. Outspoken black candidates such as William Mervin Gumede, author and journalist, and Lumko Mtimde, the Media Development and Diversity Agency chief executive, also didn’t stand a chance. Even though the IFP and Cope backed Mtimde – he appeared on a circulated ANC “wish list” on September 10 – he wasn’t seen as sufficiently politically correct. He apparently was critical of the highly controversial acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, who wants 70 percent of SABC news to be “positive”.
Motsoeneng has been appointed, dismissed and reappointed by the board, so it is important he has friends on the board. Ellen Tshabalala, the interim board chair, is on the list of names yesterday approved by the National Assembly by 203 votes to 78. Apart from being chair of IKU Capital, she is the presidential adviser on BBBEE.
DA MP Marian Shinn said Parliament had been presented with an opportunity to select a new board to steer the SABC “into calm waters” but instead ANC committee members had “chosen to select candidates on the basis of party political loyalties and not proficiency for the task at hand”.
The appointment of Nomvuyo Memory Mhlakaza, wife of YCL leader and ANC MP Buti Manamela, is a case in point. The other candidates are Thembinkosi Bonakele, Competition Commission deputy commissioner; Noluthando Gosa, the interim board chair, who is chief executive of Akhona Properties; Rachel Kalidass, a growth agency financial officer; chartered accountant Ronnie Lubisi, an interim board member; Krish Naidoo, a Durban lawyer who has worked for Denel; Aaron Tshidzumba, a communications professor at North West University; and Hope Zinde, ex-SABC Africa presenter.
The latter two are the only members-designate who have broadcasting expertise. Bongani Khumalo, chairman and chief executive of Gidani, which runs the national lottery; Vusumzi Mavuso, a former public service commissioner and professor Mbulaheni Maguvhe, a visually impaired educationist, are also on the board.
These men and women have a lot of problems to resolve. The auditor-general recently reported that R1.5 billion had been spent on consultants for work which his office believed could have been carried out by the generally overpaid SABC top staff.
This will be the fourth board since Zuma came to power. The previous three failed to turn around the fortunes of the state broadcaster and there is little evidence that this line-up – forced through by the ANC – will do better.
Juli Kilian, a Cope MP, described the selection as “a sham”. Indeed, it risks being a sham in charge of a shambles.