South Africa: SABC Not in Crisis, Says Faith Muthambi

Regulation & Policy

The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) is not in crisis. This is according to Faith Muthambi, South Africa’s minister of communications, speaking about the beleaguered South African public broadcaster.

Muthambi has further promised that a new CEO for the public broadcaster – a position which has been vacant for months – will be hired “any time now”.

Muthambi was among panelists, together with the SABC’s controversial and famously matric-less chief operating officer (COO) Hlaudi Motsoeneng, at the latest breakfast briefing of The New Age newspaper held in Fourways, Johannesburg.

Faith Muthambi denied that she was the one who fired SABC board members Hope Zinde, Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi in March. “Can I say upfront I didn’t dismiss any SABC board member? I don’t have the power to do that. That was a decision of the board of the SABC to do that. And then they’ve done that, empowered by the provision of section 71 of the Companies Act,” Muthambi said.

“There’s no crisis,” said Muthambi.She denied that the gutted SABC board – which has no permanent chairperson and which lost several members since last year – no longer has a quorum.

“They quorate…they still form a quorum,” said Muthambi.

Responding to questions about when the SABC will see a new permanent CEO, Muthambi said “the matter has been finalised. We’re still dealing with the due diligence part of it”.

“Any time from now,” Muthambi added.

“The CEO will be appointed. You know need to do all those due diligence issues that you need because you don’t want a situation where someone comes in, that person is not vetted, then you have problems,” said Muthambi.

Muthambi has previously missed a deadline to hire a new SABC CEO by September 2014.

Crises and problems

Like state-owned Eskom and South African Airways (SABC), the SABC has been lurching from one crisis to the next, constantly battered by a barrage of bad press.

Since Lulama Mokhobo abruptly quit in February 2014 – after just 14 months into her five year contract without any explanation – the SABC has been without a CEO for a year and three months now.

In February, the Public Protector in a scathing report found that Hlaudi Motsoeneng was “dishonest”, lied about having a matric which he admitted to in a recorded interview, and committed fraud by making up symbols for a matric certificate he knew he couldn’t produce.

The Public Protector also found Motsoeneng irregularly and rapidly increased the salaries of various SABC staff members and that his own salary also increased three times in one year by 63% to R2.4m.

The Public Protector also found that Hlaudi Motsoeneng was directly involved in purging all the SABC staff who testified against him in an earlier disciplinary hearing, and that the “dysfunctional” SABC board is part of “pathological corporate governance deficiencies at the SABC”.

The Public Protector said that Motsoeneng should be suspended. Instead, the SABC responded by permanently appointing him as chief operating officer (COO).

After the Western Cape High Court twice ordered that he be suspended, the case is now moving to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA) in September.

The unstable SABC board has further been without a chairperson for months after Ellen Tshabalala resigned in December following a highly publicised scandal of faking her tertiary qualifications. She initially also went to court.

SABC board member Bongani Khumalo abruptly resigned in January and Hope Zinde was purged from the SABC board in March together with Rachel Kalidass and Ronnie Lubisi.

The SABC’s most watched TV show and biggest TV revenue earner, , abruptly disappeared for months from the airwaves at the end of 2014 owing to a talent strike which SABC executives failed to resolve and which saw the cast abruptly being fired and replaced.

The SABC’s suspended TV boss Leo Manne resigned and left at the end of April, leaving the position of general manager for TV channels vacant.

In April ongoing concern was raised in parliament over the SABC’s audience share which is flat at 53%.

The SABC wasted R3.39bn on irregular spending in three years according to the Auditor General (AG) and the public broadcaster has so far received four consecutive annual qualified audits from the AG.
Source: All Africa 4 June 2015