Will the ANC heed its own call on the SABC?

CityPress - - Voices - Janet Heard voices@city­press.co.za

Wouldn’t it be nice if politi­cians made laws that they would like to have in place even when they are not in power? Former SABC board mem­ber and head of ra­dio news Pippa Green ad­vised the ANC to do just that in her re­ac­tion to Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi’s pro­posed amend­ments to the Broad­cast­ing Act.

The most trou­bling amend­ment is that nonex­ec­u­tive mem­bers of the SABC board will no longer be ap­pointed on the ad­vice of Par­lia­ment, but by the min­is­ter of com­mu­ni­ca­tions. In one fell swoop, the vi­tal role that Par­lia­ment has played to at least try to en­sure that the broad­caster is ac­count­able to the pub­lic will be ex­tin­guished.

Not yet in power dur­ing the dy­ing days of apartheid, the ANC was at the fore­front of ef­forts to trans­form the allmighty SABC from be­ing a state pro­pa­ganda tool. The need for an in­de­pen­dent SABC was so press­ing that the cur­rent Broad­cast­ing Amend­ment Act was en­acted in 1993 to en­able free and cred­i­ble elec­tions to take place in April 1994.

De­scrib­ing the up­hill bat­tle at the time, then ANC sec­re­tary­gen­eral Cyril Ramaphosa said in a 1992 speech that the Na­tional Party had been try­ing to con­vince ne­go­tia­tors that its SABC ap­pointees, “many of them with links to the Broeder­bond and to the SA De­fence Force’s Direc­torate of Mil­i­tary In­tel­li­gence”, had some­how trans­formed and were no longer pro­pa­gan­dists.

Now, af­ter more than 21 years in power, sim­i­lar rul­ing-party ar­ro­gance has been dis­played, this time by an ANC pres­i­dent who be­lieves that the for­mer lib­er­a­tion party will rule un­til Je­sus comes back.

Although Cabi­net – in its jit­tery and di­vided state – ap­proved Muthambi’s Broad­cast­ing Amend­ment Bill last month, ten­sions are ev­i­dent, with al­liance part­ner the SA Com­mu­nist Party openly trash­ing it.

But if ANC MPs con­tinue the pat­tern of clos­ing ranks when the bill comes be­fore Par­lia­ment next year, they will aban­don yet an­other pledge from their glory years.

“The ANC is com­mit­ted to pub­lic broad­cast­ing which is in­de­pen­dent of the gov­ern­ment of the day, and which owes its loy­alty not to any party, but to the pop­u­la­tion as a whole,” Ramaphosa said in 1992.

The cur­rent ANC lead­er­ship does not care to take ad­vice from oth­ers, but you would think they would heed their own ad­vice. Or per­haps Muthambi and her co­horts are too drunk with power to no­tice that in the party dis­cus­sion doc­u­ments for the Na­tional Gen­eral Coun­cil 2015, there are re­peated rec­om­men­da­tions for the SABC to have “strength­ened ac­count­abil­ity to Par­lia­ment”.

But af­ter this week, we can’t ex­pect any com­mon sense or for-the-greater-good ad­vice to be taken into con­sid­er­a­tion.

So, af­ter the fool­hardy de­ci­sion to axe Fi­nance Min­is­ter Nh­lanhla Nene, I won’t be hold­ing my breath.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.