Joburg - The delays in the appointment of a new SABC board are concerning the SA National Editors’ Forum (Sanef), which says this is despite Parliament’s recommendations of prospectively qualified candidates to do the job.
Sanef says it notes with concern reports that President Cyril Ramaphosa has blamed Parliament and the Constitutional Court for his inability to make appointments on the basis of an “unlawful decision” emanating from the legislature’s 15-candidate list sent to him last year.
“The president filed his answering affidavit to the apex court in the legal challenge launched by interest groups, Media Monitoring Africa and the SOS Coalition. The two organisations want the Constitutional Court to force President Ramaphosa to appoint the board. The public broadcaster has been without a board of directors for five months, and this poses a threat to the public broadcaster’s operations, among other essential obligations that require the board’s approval and governance processes,” said Sanef.
The Sanef statement further noted reports that the former Communications and Digital Technologies Minister, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, had contributed to these delays after she questioned the inclusion of the broadcaster’s former head of news, Phathiswa Magopeni, in the list of candidates recommended by Parliament.
Parliament had thoroughly interrogated her recommendation to serve on the board and concluded that she was an appropriate candidate.
“Sanef wishes to appeal to President Ramaphosa to prioritise the finalisation of the SABC board appointment. We support the concerns raised by our media freedom advocacy partners that the absence of a board places the SABC at risk of insolvency that will undermine the great progress in stabilising the public broadcaster,” read the statement.
Earlier this month, DA spokesperson on communications, Dianne Kohler Barnard, said the delay in appointing a new SABC board brought the future of the broadcasting corporation into question.
“The SABC has been without a board for almost five months, and the president has not provided any indication as to when he will be appointing the new board.
“It is especially worrying as the SABC is in serious financial trouble with widespread irregularities and wasteful expenditure. The auditor-general has stated that it is possible that the SABC could become non-operational if things continue as they are,” said Kohler Barnard.
She said in a letter to her party that Ramaphosa cited rules that allow him to take his time, which is exasperating given the dire situation at the SABC.
Kohler Barnard said Ramaphosa claimed that it was more than a month after the proposed board was approved by the National Assembly when the candidates’ CVs were only received on January 10.
She highlighted that there was still no indication of when these appointments would take place, except that the president is seeking legal advice “on matters of concern to him”.
As the candidates all received clearance certificates, we have no idea what concerns he is dealing with.
“One issue raised by the DA is the inclusion of a candidate who was an adviser to the Minister of Communication and Digital Technologies. This presents a clear conflict of interest, but was not included in his CV.
“The DA has called for the removal of this candidate and for the next candidate on the list to be selected instead,” she said.
Kohler Barnard added that the SABC had an important role to play as a high-performing, financially sustainable, digitised national public broadcaster that provides compelling, informative, educational and entertaining content across all platforms. However, without a board, crucial decisions are brought to a halt.
“Meanwhile, the former minister claimed in a letter to the DA that she had appointed the current SABC CEO to act in the stead of the board, but in a Scopa (Parliament’s standing committee on public accounts) hearing, the CEO said he had refused the job as interim chairperson,” she said.
The DA called for Ramaphosa to make these appointments as soon as possible.
“South Africa is facing a disaster in terms of mismanaged state-owned entities, and the country needs a government that can bring about change and take decisive action, not one that takes months to appoint a new board for one of the 128 SOEs,” she said.