There is little doubt that the governing party has much sway over the appointments to the board of the public broadcaster, the SABC. It is nearing an election year after all, so perhaps it should be no surprise that the multi-party portfolio committee on communications could not reach cross-party agreement on the new 12-member board.
So it appears all 12 will be decidedly supportive of the ruling party. Notable industry expert Kate Skinner, former Independent Broadcasting Authority councillor John Matisonn and journalism professor William Gumede made it on to a short list, but their names are absent from the final list rubberstamped yesterday by the ANC majority on the committee, led by chairman Eric Kholwane.
According to Cope MP Juli Kilian and IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe, the ANC parliamentarians bowed to Luthuli House “to advance specific candidates at the last minute”. Some of the names pushed through yesterday had not been on the ANC’s original list of preferred candidates.
Friend of President Jacob Zuma and outgoing interim board chairwoman Zandile Ellen Tshabalala, who is the chairwoman of IKU Capital, is back, as is her deputy, Noluthando Gosa, the chief executive of Akhona Properties. Others appointed include managing directors of R Kalidass and Associates Rachel Kalidass, Bongani Khumalo, who is the chairman of national lottery operator Gidani, and Nomvuyo Mhlakaza, who works for the National Youth Development Agency and is a prominent member of the Young Communist League.
Just one, Hope Zinde, has some journalism experience as an SABC Africa presenter. It sounds like just the line-up one needs to rescue the fortunes of the SABC, which managed to waste R1.5 billion on consultants, according to the auditor-general.
GEPF media stake
Zola Mlenzana, a Cope MP from the Eastern Cape, has asked Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan whether the government, through the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), was comfortable in investing Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) money to the tune of R2 billion in buying a certain media company (Independent News & Media South Africa).
In the standard parliamentary question format, Mlenzana asked for the relevant details and whether this investment would create a state hold over newspaper groups. He also asked whether it would make good business sense for the PIC to give a further loan to a certain consortium as part of the 55 percent controlling stake in this media firm in which the GEPF held 25 percent.
Gordhan replied that the ownership of the funds managed by the PIC rested with the clients of the PIC. Specifically, in the case of the GEPF, a pension fund established to manage and administer pensions and other benefits for government employees, the government was not the owner of the GEPF or its funds. As the government stood guarantor of the fund “the minister of finance’s approval of the GEPF’s investment mandate is required”.
All PIC investment decisions were guided by client mandates and the PIC’s own investment policies and strategies.
“The client mandates generally specify asset classes in which the PIC may invest and require that PIC generates investment returns that meet or exceed the benchmark return set by the client.
“The PIC uses it technical expertise to determine the optimal portfolio of investments to meet the objectives of the client mandate. The government is not involved in the day-to-day investment decisions of the PIC,” the minister explained.
Thus Gordhan said there was no state sway over newspaper groups, in this case Sekunjalo Independent Media’s Independent Newspapers, which owns Business Report.
“No. As already highlighted, the government is not the owner of the GEPF, or its funds. Hence any investments by the PIC on behalf of the GEPF are not investments belonging to the state.”
As regards whether the purchase by Sekunjalo made good business sense, Gordhan said it was the PIC’s responsibility to undertake the required “technical analysis to assess whether any investment will enable it to optimally deliver on the client mandates that it has received”.
Edited by Peter Delonno. With contributions by Donwald Pressly