Is Par­lia­ment los­ing faith in the SABC?

The tide is seem­ingly turn­ing for the pub­lic broad­caster as a par­lia­men­tary in­quiry fi­nally shows some teeth

CityPress - - News - ANDISIWE MAKINANA andisiwe.makinana@city­press.co.za

The par­lia­men­tary in­quiry into the SABC may have made for good television over the past two weeks, but is­sues pre­sented were noth­ing new. Af­ter years of stand­ing by and be­ing com­plicit while the SABC rot fes­tered, Par­lia­ment is fi­nally ask­ing the right ques­tions about gov­er­nance fail­ures at the pub­lic broad­caster.

The in­quiry was a last-minute call to look into the SABC trou­bles that Par­lia­ment had ig­nored for at least the past two years.

The me­dia and so­cial-me­dia hype around “MPs’ great, prob­ing ques­tions”, “their com­mit­ment to over­sight” and the fix­a­tion on per­son­al­i­ties in the ad hoc com­mit­tee are just that – hype.

The SABC in­quiry is an out­come of shift­ing fac­tional pol­i­tics within the ANC. The tone was set by ANC chief whip Jack­son Mthembu ear­lier this year, in his ca­pac­ity as the chair­per­son of the ANC’s sub­com­mit­tee (a strat­egy com­mit­tee) on com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

The “un­law­ful” ap­point­ment of Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng as SABC group ex­ec­u­tive of cor­po­rate af­fairs to­wards the end of Septem­ber, af­ter the ap­peals court ruled his pre­vi­ous ap­point­ment as chief op­er­a­tions of­fi­cer (COO) il­le­gal, was the last straw, ac­cord­ing to Mthembu.

The ANC fi­nally called for an in­quiry into the broad­caster and its board – a call that had pre­vi­ously fallen on deaf ears when it was made by the DA’s Phumzile van Damme.

It would be a huge dis­ser­vice to the reader not to point out the re­cent his­tory of Par­lia­ment’s ap­proach to­wards the SABC.

The al­le­ga­tions of fac­tions within the SABC board, interference by the min­is­ter, the so-called SABC 8, the mul­ti­mil­lion-rand Mul­tiChoice deal and the re­moval of board mem­bers who did not sup­port Mot­soe­neng’s per­ma­nent ap­point­ment as COO in July 2014 had all been brought to Par­lia­ment and were largely shrugged off by the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tions.

In fact, the com­mit­tee sought le­gal ad­vice on the re­moval of the un­pop­u­lar board mem­bers, and the ad­vice re­ceived from 5 4 3 2 1 0 Ra­dio pro­ducer R 912 000 Par­lia­ment’s own con­sti­tu­tional and le­gal ser­vices stated that the re­moval of Hope Zinde, Rachel Kal­i­dass and Ronnie Lu­bisi was un­law­ful and in­valid. The one ANC MP, Joyce Moloi-Moropa, who was at the fore­front of seek­ing such le­gal ad­vice and who gave an ear to those board mem­bers who com­plained, was chas­tised by her ANC com­rades, in­clud­ing by Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Faith Muthambi. She ul­ti­mately re­signed from Par­lia­ment a few months later.

Moloi-Moropa is also the treasurer-gen­eral of the SA Com­mu­nist Party, which has been vo­cal against the go­ings-on at the pub­lic broad­caster for the past few years. This was fur­ther ev­i­dence that political will had in­deed be­come sec­ondary and sub­sumed in ANC fac­tional fights that play out within pub­lic in­sti­tu­tions that should be pro­tected and be above and be­yond pol­i­tics and in the in­ter­est of all South Africans.

Only four months ago, in Au­gust, Muthambi told the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee over­see­ing the SABC that there were no prob­lems at the SABC and that it was all in the imag­i­na­tion of the print me­dia, op­po­si­tion par­ties and NGOs whom she said were op­posed to trans­for­ma­tion.

She sang quite a dif­fer­ent tune this week.

Muthambi told the in­quiry that the prob­lems at the SABC pre­ceded her. She re­vealed that when she as­sumed of­fice in May 2014 – eight months af­ter the SABC board was ap­pointed – she found a dys­func­tional board at the broad­caster.

The dis­as­ter has been left to un­fold at the SABC as the pub­lic broad­caster has be­come a tool in the fac­tional fight­ing of the ANC.

In the fac­tional fight­ing of the ANC, what fell by the way­side was the political will to up­hold the law in terms of the Broad­cast­ing Act, which out­lines the pub­lic ser­vice man­date of the SABC.

Muthambi this week didn’t know, didn’t re­mem­ber, couldn’t re­call. Yet last year, she in­sisted in Par­lia­ment that the Com­pa­nies Act su­per­seded the Broad­cast­ing Act.

This was her way of in­ter­fer­ing and med­dling in the SABC and there­fore play­ing a sig­nif­i­cant part in the shenani­gans and dis­as­ter.

The fac­tional bat­tles of the ANC have sti­fled the political will to up­hold the law and the Con­sti­tu­tion that gives every South African the right to ac­cess in­for­ma­tion. R 413 000 SABC chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer 13th cheque and com­mis­sions Con­tri­bu­tions to pen­sion fund and med­i­cal aid Expenses and al­lowances Ba­sic salary Agree­ment be­tween the SABC and Mul­tichoice: Bonus for trans­ac­tion: Al­ready re­ceived R11.4 m

R 2 872 000 R 4 198 000 R 3 784 000

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