Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. File picture: Ayanda Ndamane/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - Communications Minister Nomvula Mokonyane has moved to withdraw a bill that was described as a “power grab” of the SABC by then minister Faith Muthambi, who has been linked to allegations of state capture.

On Wednesday, the withdrawal of the contentious Broadcasting Amendment Bill - which Muthambi was pushing - was described as a victory by civil society organisations.

The bill gave Muthambi powers to appoint the SABC board, taking the authority away from Parliament. It also called for the reduction of the size of the non-executive directors of the SABC board from 12 to nine.

At the time, many MPs were left fuming, saying Muthambi was trying to steamroll Parliament to bend over backwards on the bill.

Muthambi could not be reached for comment yesterday. Mokonyane was left to withdraw the bill after Parliament's communications committee stalled on it.

The Save Our SABC (SOS) Coalition and Media Monitoring Africa said this was a positive step by Parliament and Mokonyane.

Duduetsang Makuse of the SOS Coalition said this was a victory for the independence of the SABC, adding that they were relieved the bill had been withdrawn.

Makuse said the withdrawal of the bill was a step in the right direction and noted they were opposed to pieces of legislation that seek to give politicians more power.

“We are not opposed to any amendment of the policy. The only issue we have is bills that solidify political power. The SABC has a specific democratic role to play, but we have to keep an eye on it,” she said.

William Bird of Media Monitoring Africa said this was a welcome decision.

There had been eight ministers in the last seven years in the Communications Department, and that had created instability.

The SABC has had more than five boards in the last 10 years and more than 12 chief executives. Most of those have not completed their term of office.

The SABC has also suffered huge financial losses in recent years, with the latest audited financial statements showing a loss of R621 million.  This followed a string of other losses in the last few years worth millions of rand.

Political Bureau