SABC CEO Madoda Mxakwe told the Zondo commission that there were certain board members who interfered in the editorial affairs and business dealings. Picture: Itumeleng English/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - SA Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) CEO Madoda Mxakwe told the state capture commission of inquiry that there were certain board members who interfered in the editorial affairs and business dealings at the public broadcaster.

"There is indeed interference by some board members in editorial and SABC business dealings...we really cannot continue like this. I would not want to go into the details, chairperson, but I can confirm that there are some board members making our jobs difficult by interfering. We have raised this with the board that the manner we are supposed to do our work, is being stifled by these members. It is really untenable," said Mxakwe.

According to weekend media reports, Mxakwe, outgoing COO Graig van Rooyen and CFO Yolande van Biljon wrote to the board complaining about the board's interference. The Sunday Times reported that the three responded to a letter to board chairman Bongumusa Makhathini, after they first complained in June. 

The board had asked the executives to detail the instances of interference, and the three mentioned instances such as a state-owned enterprise sending an email to a producer demanding an interview for its CEO, who is also an SABC board member. They also alleged that board members used meetings to demand free tickets for events and that a board member suggested editors give ministers free access to the SABC in return for "political mileage".

Mxakwe gave testimony on how the cash-strapped public broadcaster was unable to pay service providers, and could only pay salaries month on month. A turnaround strategy had been implemented and managed to save the SABC almost R1 billion in the financial year.

The SABC has been awaiting a R3,2 billion bailout from government.

Mxakwe said he had to convince executives who wanted to resign to stay.

"As a leader, you can only inspire and give hope to a certain level...but I am reaching a point where every week I actually have to ask key members of my team not to resign precisely because of the precarious situation we find ourselves in. I also cannot really give hope to the 5 000 employees of the SABC who keep hoping every day that something good is going to happen. We feel as a team of executives that we are standing in the way of the bailout, and I do not know what will happen after this...but the truth is we cannot continue the way things are. In the interest of the SABC, certain tough decisions need to be taken."

Zondo said the SABC's situation was a serious concern and something drastic needed to be done.

"I can only say at this stage that this is quite concerning, I am not sure as to what exactly the commission can do, but I hope that the right people will be aware of this evidence and take note that this needs intervention. I think as many people as possible should be encouraged to take a stand where they believe they are doing the right thing. I really hope the right intervention will happen soon."

The SABC is technically insolvent following years of mismanagement and flouting of supply chain management rules, coupled with dysfunctional boards and executive management.

African News Agency (ANA)