Minister backs bill to reduce SABC board members
Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi at a press briefing in Pretoria. File picture: Jonisayi Maromo/ANA
Johannesburg - Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi has thrown her weight behind the controversial bill that seeks to reduce the number of board members for the SABC.
The bill, introduced in Parliament by Kubayi’s predecessor Faith Muthambi, wants the number of non-executive board members reduced from 12 to nine and the required quorum reduced from nine to seven.
It also wants to give power to the minister to recommend to the president the appointment and removal of board members, a power that now lies with Parliament.
Read: Communications Minister to appeal judgment curbing powers over SABC
These amendments sparked outrage when the bill was tabled two years ago with political parties and civil society organisations saying it was a ploy to turn the SABC into a state broadcaster.
Kubayi’s support for the bill comes hot on the heels of the decision to appeal the ruling of the High Court which gave the SABC board full powers to appoint the top three executives - CEO, COO and CFO - without the ministerial approval.
Speaking during a question session in Parliament this week, Kubayi said she supported the reduction of non-executive members as proposed in the bill.
“My reason to support (the bill) is because of issues of quorum. At times it makes it difficult to function,” she said.
Also read: Court curbs Communication Minister's powers at SABC
Kubayi also said cost implications were a factor for her support.
“In the last six months of the interim board, which was comprised of five member individuals, the SABC paid almost R3.5m in board fees.
“During 2016-2017 the SABC paid over R2.8m in board fees until October 2016.”
The DA’s Phumzile van Damme said it was really disappointing Kubayi supported this provision of the bill.
She argued that the problems at the SABC were due to cadre deployment, corruption and political interference.
“It has nothing to do with number of board members,” Van Damme said.
The IFP’s Mkhuleko Hlengwa poured scorn at Kubayi’s stance saying the public broadcaster should rather reduce its R597m outstanding debt and R74m losses than reduce board members.
“What are the steps to ensure SABC is financially afloat and that it generates income?”
Kubayi said the reduction of board members was not the only option considered.
“We look at whether we could have strategic partnership through the commercial side of SABC.”
She also said they were looking at tapping into revenues for the SABC from digital platforms.
“If you look at what has been going on over the years the current model of financing will not sustain the SABC hence we look to review at whole model to grow the commercial side.”
Kubayi revealed they would approach National Treasury.
“We are looking for a guarantee. We have service providers that are not paid.”
She said the proposal came from the board.