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Cape Town - Communications Minister Dina Pule is trying to persuade SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane and his deputy to withdraw their resignations, the presidency said on Monday.
“The matter is receiving attention from the communications department,” spokesman Mac Maharaj said.
“The minister is trying to prevail on them to withdraw their resignations. So the matter is not at the stage yet where it has reached the desk of the president.”
The SABC reported on Monday that Ngubane and his deputy Thami ka Plaatjie had resigned. This followed weeks of renewed tension at the public broadcaster after Ngubane and the board fell out over the future of acting chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng.
Earlier, Pule's spokesman Sipho Qoza told SABC radio it was up to President Jacob Zuma to decide whether to accept the resignations or not.
“Pule has been quite concerned about the goings on at the board at the SABC,” Qoza said.
“It will depend on what the president says and what happens to the SABC board. It will basically be determined by whether the president accepts or declines the resignations.”
Qoza could not be reached for further comment, nor could Ngubane.
On February 26, the broadcaster announced Motsoeneng had been “released from his duties”.
It said that Mike Siluma, a veteran journalist and head of radio news and current affairs, had been appointed to the acting position.
But shortly after that, Ngubane was quoted in a newspaper report as saying Motsoeneng had been reinstated. He said Ka Plaatjie had made this decision.
This prompted the SABC board to issue a media statement saying that “the report... is regrettable as neither the chairman nor the deputy chairman nor both have the power or authority to unilaterally change a board resolution”.
The SABC board said it would seek clarity from Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie regarding the newspaper report.
Since then, Pule has asked Parliament to “urgently” review the fitness of the SABC board.
Opposition parties on Monday welcomed the resignations.
“Tasked with steering the SABC board and the organisation at large to stability and good governance, Mr Ngubane and Mr Ka Plaatjie failed while at the helm of the board,” Inkatha Freedom Party spokeswoman Liezl van der Merwe said.
It was clear that in the midst of an ever-growing crisis at the public broadcaster these men had shown real leadership by taking responsibility, she said. However, their resignations would further destabilise the SABC.
“At this stage, the IFP is of the opinion that there is now a need for the board to be dissolved and that capable, passionate individuals must be found to take the public broadcaster forward.
“We will need individuals who will put the interests and the stability of the public broadcaster first.”
The IFP believed it was important that all future appointments to the SABC board were depoliticised, Van der Merwe said.
Congress of the People spokeswoman Juli Kilian said Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie's legacy of usurping executive powers and interfering in the corporation's daily running would haunt the broadcaster.
Ngubane would unfortunately be remembered for his autocratic style of leadership and failure to turn the SABC around and root out corruption and insider trading.
The implosion of the SABC board would hopefully awake the ANC members in the communications portfolio committee to the extent of the governance crisis at the SABC, which was largely the result of the ruling party's political meddling and obvious attempts to turn the public broadcaster into a state broadcaster.
“Those responsible for the chaos at the SABC should be held accountable and if necessary criminally charged.
“The minister responsible [Pule] should take her cue from the duo and immediately resign from office, failing which the president should dismiss Ms Pule without further delay,” Kilian said.