It is now three months since the term of office of the previous SABC Board expired on 15 October 2022. The litany of undue delays in appointing the Board continues to hamper the institution’s efficiency and strategic direction. These range from the public call for nominations, the security vetting of candidates, the National Assembly and now, the appointment by the President.
The Board is essential in providing the SABC with strategic leadership that serves the public good. The Board controls the business of the Corporation, ensures that the SABC abides by its Charter and that there is public participation in the development of policies. It also keeps proper and accurate books and records of the financial affairs of the public and commercial division, updates policies and informs the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) of changes made to policies. Moreover, the Board is the accounting authority and the highest decision-making body of the institution.
The SOS Coalition is concerned that a significant public institution has been without a Board for three months – this has not happened before. The absence of leadership and authority in any organization is detrimental, particularly so at a public institution such as the SABC. There are critical issues that need Board intervention and approval that are currently on hold. In a Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications meeting held on 29 November 2022, the SABC’s CEO, Mr Madoda Mxakwe, indicated that several decisions are on hold, pending Board approval – this will have been exacerbated in the intervening weeks.
SOS is disappointed by the lackadaisical attitude of the National Assembly in sending the recommended names to the President some 14 days after they were finalised with no explanation as to the reason for the delay.
The decision taken at the ANC conference in December to replace TV licenses with a household broadcasting levy, needs the SABC to strategise on the most adequate implementation process and resource allocation to ensure a swift transition and is likely to need Board intervention. Further, the looming Analogue Switch Off (ASO) date of 31 March 2023, recently announced by the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, will require a new strategic direction for the institution as it stands to lose part of the 68% audience from the remaining four (4) provinces that still distribute analogue SABC television signals. The Minister has set the 27th of January as the date for interested parties to make submissions on this issue – that is 10 days away! How is the Board supposed to be appointed, inducted and be able to make a comprehensive submission on the biggest threat to its financial viability that it has ever faced? SOS is of the view that the Minister must recognise that the voice of the public broadcaster in her determination of the ASO date and this cannot be done effectively if the Board has had no time to consider her announcement and to develop its response.
OS urges the President to appoint the SABC Board immediately.
The incoming Board must be independent and credible for it to adequately fulfil its role at the public broadcaster. In order to ensure its credibility, the Coalition submits that the following recommendations be adhered to by the President in line with the qualification requirements set out in the Broadcasting Act, 1999:
(These must be clearly stated as conditions of employment by the President and not dependent on the candidates’ choices)
The SABC needs a Board now
For more information, please contact:
National Coordinator (SOS Coalition)