Picture: Bhekikhaya Mabaso/Africa News Agency(ANA)

CAPE TOWN - It is clear that filling the eight vacancies on the SABC board is not a priority for the African National Congress, the Democratic Alliance said on Sunday.

Despite an undertaking by parliament's communications portfolio committee last year that the process of filling the eight vacancies would begin in early January 2019, this had not happened, DA spokeswoman Phumzile van Damme said.

She had written to committee chairperson Hlengiwe Mkhize twice - first on January 13 and again on the 15th - requesting an update on the dates set for beginning the process of filling the vacancies and had received no response from the chairperson or the members of the ANC serving on the committee.

In November last year, given the urgency of filling the vacancies, the committee resolved that the process would begin in mid-January with shortlisting of candidates and interviews in late January.

"Currently, the SABC board is inquorate, a high-risk position for the public broadcaster to be in as it faces staff retrenchment and a cash flow crisis. It should be all hands on deck, with a full board with the best minds working to steer the SABC to calm waters. It is clear that the filling of the eight vacancies on the SABC board is not a matter of priority for the ANC, as it has claimed," Van Damme said.

"We trust that the ANC will now stop hiding and hoping the situation will go away by ignoring it. The DA will keep the pressure on. The DA stands firmly against the appointment of an interim board. The process for the appointment of an interim board is not as rigorous and open as it is for a permanent board, political parties simply bring names forward and an interim board is constituted.

"Going into an election, this would allow the ANC space to insert individuals onto the SABC board who would be at the beck-and-call of Luthuli House. The DA wants an independent board, interviewed and appointed in a process fully open the public, and candidates’ qualifications, independence, and experience thoroughly assessed."

The SABC board shortlisting, interviewing, and approval by the National Assembly of a permanent board should happen as a matter of urgency and the DA would not rest until this was done, Van Damme said.

African News Agency (ANA)