South Africa: Selection Process Tipped to Pick Qunta

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Opposition parties have expressed concern that President Thabo Mbeki will likely use his power to appoint lawyer Christine Qunta as chairman of the SABC's next board after she made it onto the final shortlist of 12 names recommended by the National Assembly's communications committee.

The National Assembly will debate and approve the list tomorrow after which it will be sent for presidential endorsement.

Qunta, who was deputy chairman in the outgoing board, has been widely tipped to take over from Eddie Funde, who withdrew his nomination shortly before he was due to be interviewed at the end of last month.

Her short-listing was apparently vehemently opposed by the South African Communist Party and the Congress of South African Trade Unions.

Parliament's communications portfolio committee yesterday approved the shortlist of 12 names from a list of 37 (drawn from 143 nominations) after an extensive period of interviews with each candidate.

Six current members of the SABC board, including Qunta, have been selected again, despite accusations that the board has been ineffective in maintaining the political independence and integrity of the public broadcaster. The others are Alison Gilwald, Andile Mbeki, Fadila Lagadien, Khanyisile Mkhonza and Ashwin Trikamjee.

The other six recommended by the communications committee are Nadia Bulbulia, Desmond Golding, advertising executive Peter Vundla, Bheki Khumalo, Gloria Serobe, and Pansy Tlakula of the Independent Electoral Commission.

Democratic Alliance (DA) communications spokeswoman Dene Smuts and Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) communications spokeswoman Suzanne Vos said the hand of Mbeki supporters on the committee was clear in the choice of some candidates.

"This is a politically-partisan, pro-Mbeki board," Vos said.

Smuts opposed the selection of "Mbeki-supporting" Qunta on the grounds of her controversial views on freedom of expression and her interests in the Comforters Healing Gift company which promoted medicinal cures for HIV/AIDS.

Vos said that as head of the board's human resources committee Qunta had overseen 80 resignations during her tenure.

The ANC controversially did not propose ANC national executive committee member and former speaker of the national assembly Frene Ginwala.

The ANC and DA agreed on eight of the names, with the IFP approving seven of these and abstaining on the eighth, namely former presidential spokesman Bheki Khumalo.

(Business Day (Johannesburg), 12 September 2007)