SABC Board concerns remain despite SOS relief at the SABC Board appointment

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SABC Board concerns remain despite SOS relief at the SABC Board appointment

Like many others, SOS Support Public Broadcasting Coalition (SOS) expresses great relief at last week’s appointment of the SABC Board by President Cyril Ramaphosa. The public broadcaster has been without a board of directors for over six months. However, the process has been riddled with flaws which set a poor precedent for future board appointments and SOS is considering further legal action to rectify the flaws.

While we welcome the appointment of the board and pledge to offer our assistance in the work of strengthening the SABC, we have ongoing concerns about the process which has tainted a number of the individual board appointments.

First, Parliament lacked the power to recommend its so-called “reserve pool” of candidates as the Broadcasting Act empowers the National Assembly to make recommendations only in respect of existing vacancies. There were twelve vacancies after the end of the previous term of the Board and the National Assembly duly made twelve recommendations and then, unlawfully, another three. Consequently, the President also lacked the power to appoint Ms Palesa Kadi (above the other two recommended candidates) as she was not recommended by Parliament to fill the vacancy that arose following the withdrawal of Prof Frans Kruger from the 12-member list of candidates.

While the President has at last appointed the Board, Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) is persisting with its application to the Constitutional Court for a declaratory order that the President failed to comply with a constitutional obligation.

Second, SOS has, on a number of occasions, raised concerns about three other candidates appointed to the Board. Specifically, SOS has raised concerns over two of the newly appointed Board members who have conflicts of interest which preclude their active participation in SABC Board meetings, namely Mpho Tsedu and Nomvuyiso Batyi. The SABCs Board has its work cut out for it due to being appointed six months late and needs as full participation of all its members as possible. The organization will not be well served by two of its members being unable to fully participate due to their conflicts of interest.

Mr Tsedu is currently a paid advisor to the Deputy Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, an obvious conflict given the need for the SABC to be independent of the executive branch of government. That conflict would exist in respect of every matter to be considered by the Board. Consequently, as per his own public undertaking to resign once appointed to the SABC Board, we call upon Mr Tsedu to resign from his position at the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies.

Ms. Batyi is the CEO of the Association of Communications and Technology which represents the commercial interests of the mobile cellular operators. These operators are currently in a direct conflict with the SABC because of their push for an immediate analogue television switch-off in order to be able to access additional radio frequency spectrum. Consequently, Ms. Batyi would be unable to participate in any board meetings to discuss the SABC’s television operations. Consequently, we call upon Ms. Batyi to resign from her position at the Association of Communications and Technology.

SOS also has concerns regarding the trust and candour of a third Board appointee, Mr Dinkwanyane Mohuba. The High Court has upheld a decision of the University of Limpopo not to award him a PhD following an investigation that he hired people to write his doctoral thesis for him. SOS is of the view that he cannot, until his name has been cleared, be a fit and proper person to represent the public interest on the SABC Board.

Despite these concerns, Parliament saw fit to recommend these three candidates for appointment and all have been duly appointed to the SABC Board. SOS is taking advice from its legal team with a view to challenging these recommendations.

SOS is adamant that the government needs to be held accountable for the problematic recommendations, the delays in both recommendations and appointments and for the consequential harm caused to the SABC. Further, efficient, transparent and public interest- focused processes need to be entrenched in regard to SABC Board appointments.

We wish the Board well in its work and call upon them to publicly commit to strengthening the independence and integrity of the SABC board.

For more information contact:
Uyanda Siyotula,
National Coordinator (060 691 2462)