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The SABC board, decimated by the resignation of six members on Monday, is likely to be dissolved and an interim board appointed, a move that was viewed as a “last resort” by the National Assembly’s communications committee chairman just a week ago.
Sikhumbuzo Kholwane, the chairman of the portfolio committee on communications, said Communications Minister Dina Pule would appear before the committee on Tuesday to discuss the crisis, and he hoped to report back to the National Assembly this afternoon.
The board’s chairman, Ben Ngubane, and his deputy, Thami ka Plaatjie, resigned just over a week ago, and then six more members resigned.
President Jacob Zuma on Monday announced he had accepted all the resignations.
The SABC board, initially comprising 12 members, is now left with only three, making it practically impossible to hold a quorate meeting.
The board’s politically connected former acting chief operations officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, was given the boot two weeks ago, prompting Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie to resign.
Pule, who is herself shrouded in allegations of financial impropriety and poor corporate governance, was called to address the committee on the state of corporate governance at the public broadcaster by MPs earlier this month.
She cancelled a meeting with the MPs last week in order to meet with the SABC board about the resignations of Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie.
In a statement on Tuesday, Zuma announced that he had received and accepted letters of resignation from Lumko Mtimde, John Danana, Cedric Gina, Desmond Golding, Cawe Mahlati and Noluthando Gosa, as well as Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie.
Another board member, Patricia Makhesha, had previously resigned, leaving only Suzanne Vos, Pippa Green and Claire O’Neil remaining on the board.
Should MPs decide to appoint an interim board, Parliament will have to agree on five names to be forwarded to Zuma.
Otherwise the public broadcaster will be left without a governance structure until at least late next month, when the next plenary session is available for MPs to vote on a new interim board.
Kholwane said on Monday that, given Parliament’s tight schedule, he hoped the committee would reach agreement on a way forward during this morning’s meeting so that a report could be tabled during this afternoon’s sitting of the National Assembly.
All decisions would be made in accordance with the legislation governing the SABC board.
He said the committee faced two options: either appointing nine new SABC board members – a process which he estimated would take between two and three months – or dissolving the board and appointing an interim board.
He said at least one other political party, Cope, had agreed on presenting a report to the National Assembly this afternoon and he hoped other parties would also concur.
But he said the resignations, among other issues, raised questions about the processes involved in appointing members to the board – specifically that they were “viewed as political appointments”.
Kholwane said he had already requested portfolio committee members to begin thinking of nominations of people to serve on the five-person interim structure.
Amid rumours in political circles that the mass resignation of board members was orchestrated and prompted by calls from Luthuli House after the ANC national executive committee (NEC) meeting over the weekend, as well as questions about why Vos, Green and O’Neil did not resign, several of the board’s members said they “acted as individuals”.
“One can resign if one so decides. So we acted as individuals with regard to the challenges (facing the SABC board),” said Mtimde.
He declined to confirm or deny whether he had been approached by any members of the portfolio committee to serve on an interim board.
Veteran journalist and former head of SABC radio news Green said “no one has spoken to me” when asked about whether the resignations were orchestrated.