27/04/2011 President Jacob Zuma at the Union Building during the freedom day celebration. Picture : Sizwe Ndingane

Cape Town - President Jacob Zuma has received a joint letter of resignation from SABC board chairman Ben Ngubane and his deputy Thami ka Plaatjie.

“The president is currently considering the resignations,” Zuma's spokesman Mac Maharaj said on Monday.

Earlier in the day, Maharaj said Communications Minister Dina Pule was trying to persuade Ngubane and Ka Plaatjie to withdraw their resignations.

“The matter is receiving attention from the communications department,” he said.

Democratic Alliance spokeswoman Marian Shinn urged Zuma to accept the resignations and allow them to leave as soon as possible.

Under Ngubane's leadership a number of appropriately experienced people, committed to restoring the SA Broadcasting Corporation to a credible, financially stable public broadcaster serving all South Africans, resigned from the board in frustration, she said.

This was because of his “dictatorial style” and his inability or unwillingness to prevent political interference in the stations' editorial and content.

His unwavering support for Hlaudi Motsoeneng as acting COO -- who was both unqualified and unsuitable for the job -- further divided the operations of the corporation, and eroded its reputation.

Turning the SABC should be the key priority.

“I trust that the rest of the board will remain for stability's stake and that a chairperson, who is politically neutral and with solid credentials in corporate governance, can be found to take the SABC forward,” Shinn said.

The SABC reported on Monday that Ngubane and his deputy Ka Plaatjie had resigned. This followed weeks of renewed tension at the public broadcaster after Ngubane and the board fell out over Motsoeneng's future.

Pule's spokesman Sipho Qoza told SABC radio it was up to 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 according to which “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 SABC board's fitness.

Other opposition parties on Monday also welcomed the resignations.

Inkatha Freedom Party spokeswoman Liezl van der Merwe said: “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.”

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.”

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 be remembered for his “autocratic style of leadership” and failure to turn the SABC around and root out corruption and insider trading.

“The minister responsible 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. - Sapa