Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo.File picture: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Parliament - Communications Minister Ayanda Dlodlo on Tuesday, rejected claims by a group of journalists from the troubled South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) that she was overstepping and interfering in the affairs of the public broadcaster.

"I really don't know what they are talking about. First and foremost I am not operational. Secondly, I have no interest in being operational and that is what I said when I was appointed," Dlodlo told journalists on the sidelines of a briefing to Parliament's portfolio committee on communications on the annual report of the broadcaster.

She was responding to an open letter by a group of journalists, known as the SABC 8. The group is concerned about what they term the possible “recapture” of the public broadcaster, referring to South African government-owned entities being used corruptly to generate money for politically connected business people.

“We believe that a recapture project of the public broadcaster is afoot and would like to endorse the open letter written to you by our fellow colleagues under the banner Bemawu (Broadcasting, Electronic, Media and Allied Workers Union),” the letter from the journalists read.

In the letter, the journalists threaten to strike if the governance crisis is not resolved by the appointment of a new board. The broadcaster has been without a board for almost two weeks after President Jacob Zuma insisted on seeing the qualifications of board members given previous blunders in which people, who lied about their educational backgrounds, were given key board positions.

The SABC 8 is a group of journalists who expressed concern at the editorial policies imposed on them, including that no visuals of violent protests be aired. They were fired and later reinstated following a public outcry and legal proceedings.

The journalists claim they have been told by the acting group chief executive that Dlodlo is preparing to extend the contracts of current executives.

“If the minister proceeds with such plans she would be usurping the powers of Parliament or a board that should have been appointed by Parliament,” the open letter reads.

Dlodlo rubbished this saying she was not interested in getting involved in the operational affairs of the broadcaster. 

However, she insists that the SABC memorandum of incorporation gives her the right to approve or disapprove of candidates recommended by a new board for the position of chief exective, chief operating officer and chief financial officer.

"It's not true that I have meddled in operational issues. For instance on the issues related to the CEO, COO, and CFO it's my prerogative...I have a duty to ensure that the best possible people are on board," said Dlodlo.

"If you look at the funding request that we have. Ultimately whoever would want to fund the SABC would want to make sure we have the right people on board."

On the delay in appointing a new board, Dlodlo said she expected to meet with Zuma some time this week. Dlodlo said documents from the South African Qualifications Authority verifying the academic qualifications of board candidates had already been handed to the president.

"That has been finalised, its been handed over the presidency already and I'm almost sure an appointment will be made very soon."