South Africa: Ensuring a Viable SABC


The SABC Board and the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Communications share the responsibility of ensuring that South Africa has a credible and successful public broadcaster the chairperson of the SABC Board, Kanyi Mkonza, told the portfolio committee in Cape Town yesterday, 18 November 2008.

"Nothing should stand in the way of building a sound, credible and viable public broadcaster - we have to build enduring public institutions for the future and in doing this we shall bestow... a lasting legacy of true constitutionalism," Mkonza said during the SABC Board's presentation of the public broadcaster's annual report to the Portfolio Committee.

The Annual Report for the period April 2007 to March 2008 contained emphases of matter and a qualified audit report. Mkonza explained that current Board's appointment was effective from the beginning of 2008 and that as soon as the seriousness of the financial trouble facing the corporation became apparent the board acted firmly in order to ensure the viability of the public broadcaster.

Early in March 2008 SABC management presented the Board with a proposed budget deficit of R600 million for the financial year 2008-9; the board refused to accept this proposal and told management to review and reprioritise the proposed budget. This was done and approved on March 25.

Mkonza said that in April she wrote a memorandum "expressing grave concerns about the unhealthy state of finances of at the SABC. I then convened an extraordinary meeting of the non-executive directors of the board to deal with this situation and hold the GCEO accountable for all that the board was concerned about."

"What followed was a barrage of attacks on the board including being hauled in front of the committee, print and electronic media attacks eventually culminating in the vote of no confidence expressed by the members of this committee on the board. This was followed by concerted and unrelenting attacks on the integrity of the board," Mkonza said.

"Despite all attempts of the Board to prevent the implosion of the SABC, we did not get the support that we needed - at that stage we needed to put all hands on deck to put the SABC back in its rightful place, as the sole public broadcaster in the country.

"The Board needed the unwavering support of the portfolio committee... because we were raising and dealing with the very issues that the portfolio committee has been raising for a long time in its oversight role over the SABC," Mkonza added.

She also warned that there is no relief in sight for March 2009. She, however, reiterated the Board's commitment to a clean, unqualified audit report that is fully in concert with the noble principles underpinning the values of the public broadcaster such as: objectivity, accuracy, fairness, impartiality and balance.

Biz-Community (Cape Town) 20 November 2008