SABC is finally hauled in
Parliament finally took a no-nonsense stand against the SABC when its ad hoc committee – set up to inquire into the board’s fitness to hold office – tackled the public broadcaster head on this week.
The committee held firm even as SABC board chairperson Mbulaheni Maguvhe – the only remaining nonexecutive board member – desperately tried to resist accountability by going to court to try to stop the inquiry from going ahead.
When the court turned him down, he and his SABC cronies tried to cripple the committee’s inquiry by refusing to hand over crucial documents and walking out. But keeping their dignity, the parliamentarians stood firm.
For too long, Maguvhe and SABC strongman Hlaudi Motsoeneng have cocked a snook at everyone who has highlighted the irregular and improper manner in which the broadcaster is being run.
Even this week, as their world was crumbling around them, these SABC bosses cheekily held a two-hour press conference, where they sought to show they were unshaken and still in charge.
But the inquiry has laid bare the abuse of power and the involvement of politicians in running the SABC’s affairs, which explains the unbridled arrogance and impunity demonstrated on a regular basis by Motsoeneng and his crew.
It has also exposed the hidden hand of Communications Minister Faith Muthambi in the chaos. Her famous statement – “uBaba loves Hlaudi” – was unpacked to show that Motsoeneng acted in the way he did because he believed he had President Jacob Zuma’s protection.
Zuma has belatedly tried to admonish the arrogant SABC executive body, saying they should subject themselves to Parliament accountability.
Despite his having allowed this soap opera to play out, unhindered, for so long, the president can still make a difference – by compelling Muthambi, who accounts to him, to play a more constructive role in rebuilding this institution.
Having taken charge now, Parliament must use this opportunity to put in place institutional mechanisms to ensure the public broadcaster never again falls into the hands of a few.
It is time to return the SABC to its proper mandate of serving the majority, rather than being servile to the politically connected.