SABC state help ‘de­pends on per­ma­nent ex­ec­u­tives’

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Bekezela Phakathi Par­lia­men­tary Writer

The Trea­sury will not ad­vance the R3bn govern­ment guar­an­tee that the SABC has re­quested un­til the public broad­caster deals with sev­eral is­sues in­clud­ing the ap­point­ment of per­ma­nent ex­ec­u­tives.

Trea­sury sources said there was con­cern that with­out a per­ma­nent board and ex­ec­u­tives in place, there would be no ac­count­abil­ity at the SABC, in­creas­ing the like­li­hood of its turn­around plan fail­ing.

The SABC, which is in the throes of its worst fi­nan­cial cri­sis, has been with­out a board since the term of the in­terim board ex­pired in Septem­ber. The broad­caster is be­ing led by three act­ing ex­ec­u­tives, whose ap­point­ments were ex­tended by Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ayanda Dlodlo on Thurs­day.

The ab­sence of a board and per­ma­nent ex­ec­u­tives has raised fears that the broad­caster could sink deeper into the red.

Au­di­tor-Gen­eral Kimi Mak­wetu has warned about the SABC’s go­ing-con­cern sta­tus, not­ing it was com­mer­cially in­sol­vent at the end of March.

With­out a govern­ment guar­an­tee, the SABC was un­likely to re­cover fully.

The “Trea­sury can­not give a guar­an­tee to the SABC when there is no lead­er­ship and pro­cesses in place that will en­sure the turn­around strate­gies to make it com­mer­cially vi­able are im­ple­mented and that the monies owed to len­ders can be re­paid,” said a Trea­sury source who re­quested anonymity.

“There are no ex­ec­u­tives and there is no board. At this stage, who will be held ac­count­able for the guar­an­tee and the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the turn­around plan? The other is­sue that the Trea­sury is con­cerned about is … no one on the pro­posed per­ma­nent board has a his­tory of turn­ing around com­pa­nies,” said the Trea­sury source.

The in­com­ing board, yet to be ap­proved by Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma, will have the task of ap­point­ing per­ma­nent SABC ex­ec­u­tives. This week, Dlodlo crit­i­cised the in­terim board for rec­om­mend­ing “un­der­qual­i­fied” can­di­dates for the per­ma­nent se­nior ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions.

The min­is­ter can ap­prove or re­ject rec­om­mended can­di­dates for the ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions.

“I had to be cir­cum­spect when con­sid­er­ing the SABC se­nior man­age­ment ap­point­ments … some [of the pro­posed can­di­dates] had no ex­ec­u­tive level ex­pe­ri­ence. Some were [TV/ra­dio] pre­sen­ters,” Dlodlo said in Par­lia­ment this week.

There have been strong sug­ges­tions that Zuma wants to gain con­trol of the SABC by de­lay­ing the an­nounce­ment of a new board, so that he and Dlodlo can place their pre­ferred can­di­dates in ex­ec­u­tive po­si­tions.

Other sug­ges­tions are that Zuma is un­happy with some of the pro­posed can­di­dates, who are per­ceived as not pli­able.

Dlodlo told MPs that the board was likely to be ap­proved this week and per­ma­nent ex­ec­u­tives would be ap­pointed by the end of Jan­uary.

May­ihlome Tsh­wete, Fi­nance Min­is­ter Malusi Gi­gaba’s spokesman, said dis­cus­sions were con­tin­u­ing be­tween the Trea­sury and the De­part­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

“We note the hard work done by the min­is­ter of com­mu­ni­ca­tions to ad­dress con­cerns raised by Trea­sury and con­tinue to en­gage … we un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the SABC and we will work with them to en­sure that the sit­u­a­tion doesn’t get worse,” Tsh­wete said. “The SABC has a track record of turn­ing it­self around.… It has taken a guar­an­tee be­fore and made com­mer­cially vi­able de­ci­sions.”

De­part­ment of Com­mu­ni­ca­tions spokesman Mava Scott said the de­part­ment was not aware that the Trea­sury would with­hold the guar­an­tee. The “Trea­sury has not said that to us

… as far as we are con­cerned we are wait­ing for the out­come of the [govern­ment] guar­an­tee re­quest,” Scott said.

SABC spokesman Kaizer Kganyago said the broad­caster had not heard any­thing from the Trea­sury. “We need the guar­an­tee … but we have been sur­viv­ing and broad­cast­ing with­out it. We are play­ing around with the lit­tle money we have and pay­ing salaries. We still get money from ad­ver­tis­ing, al­though it’s lit­tle.

“For us, we can­not say we do not want the guar­an­tee, but we are [car­ry­ing] on.”

Ayanda Dlodlo

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