ZUMA WANTS SABC CON­TROL

Po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in ap­point­ing the top three posts at the broad­caster has been cited as the main rea­son for de­lays in an­nounc­ing the new board

CityPress - - Front Page - AN­DISIWE MAK­I­NANA and CHARL BLIGNAUT news@city­press.co.za

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma and Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ayanda Dlodlo have been ac­cused of de­lib­er­ately de­lay­ing the ap­point­ment of the SABC board to make their own ap­point­ments as far as the strate­gic po­si­tions of chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer (COO), chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer (CEO) and chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer (CFO) go – with­out the board’s in­put.

Sources close to the process have told City Press that Dlodlo and the now de­funct in­terim board, headed by busi­ness­woman Khany­isile Kweyama, fought over the rec­om­mended names for these po­si­tions, af­ter the min­is­ter in­sisted on be­ing given the ini­tial short list that the board had drawn up.

In­ter­views for these po­si­tions were com­pleted by the in­terim board in Au­gust. These board mem­bers told the par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee dur­ing in­ter­views that the can­di­dates had been high-cal­i­bre pro­fes­sion­als, with im­pres­sive CVs and qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

They said at the time that they hoped the top ex­ec­u­tives would be ap­pointed by the time their term ex­pired.

It is al­leged that Dlodlo wants to ram through her pre­ferred can­di­dates, while the ANC’s de­ploy­ment com­mit­tee also wants to have a say in who oc­cu­pies the three strate­gic po­si­tions.

Board mem­bers re­fused to give her the names and ac­cused her of chang­ing goal­posts and mak­ing im­pos­si­ble de­mands. But Dlodlo stuck to her guns un­til the term of the board ex­pired.

But now, the fact that the five mem­bers of the in­terim board are back on the rec­om­mended list to Zuma has cre­ated a new prob­lem for the min­is­ter as they will be in­volved in fi­nal­is­ing the ap­point­ments when the new board con­venes.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, this has ne­ces­si­tated Zuma de­lay­ing the sign­ing off of the board. Zuma missed the dead­line to ap­point the board, say­ing he wanted a rig­or­ous vet­ting of the can­di­dates. It ap­pears as if Zuma has now in­sti­tuted a du­pli­ca­tion of the ver­i­fi­ca­tion and vet­ting process that had al­ready taken place in Par­lia­ment. Three can­di­dates were ex­cluded dur­ing that stage as the State Se­cu­rity Agency found them in­el­i­gi­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to the Broad­cast­ing Act, which gov­erns the SABC, the pres­i­dent has no say in the se­lec­tion process of the cor­po­ra­tion’s board mem­bers. His only roles are to of­fi­cially ap­point the 12 nonex­ec­u­tives whose names have been for­warded to him by the Na­tional Assem­bly and to de­ter­mine who among them will be chair­per­son and deputy chair­per­son. Sev­eral sources close to the SABC and the min­istry of com­mu­ni­ca­tions have in­formed City Press that one of the board nom­i­nees had not sub­mit­ted a Ma­tric cer­tifi­cate but had pro­vided proof of ter­tiary de­grees.

The hia­tus in gov­er­nance at the broad­caster may serve as a setback as the SABC’s man­age­ment and fi­nan­cial woes had been vig­or­ously tack­led by the in­terim board, which, in its six months of ex­is­tence, cleared out dodgy ex­ec­u­tives and cleaned up dodgy deals. Zuma is also al­legedly stuck on who to ap­point as board chair­per­son and deputy.

While he is not keen on Kweyama and her deputy, Mathatha Tsedu, the most openly ANC mem­ber of the board, Febe Pot­gi­eter-Gqubule, is also not his cup of tea. She might also prove a con­tro­ver­sial ap­point­ment as she is likely to be el­e­vated to the na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee (NEC) at the ANC’s De­cem­ber con­fer­ence. “Febe is too bla­tant an ap­point­ment,” said an in­sider.

“She has al­ready said she may run for the NEC.”

An­other quandary fac­ing Zuma is that it might be seen as a bad move to re­place Kweyama with a man.

“The in­terim chair was an African woman, so do you re­place her with a man when you are so clear on back­ing African women when it comes to [show­ing sup­port for pres­i­den­tial hope­ful] Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma?” said the in­sider. A se­nior source at the pub­lic broad­caster claimed that Zuma and his sup­port­ers were wor­ried about hav­ing lost con­trol of the SABC news­room dur­ing the time of the in­terim board, and wanted those ap­pointed to the three top po­si­tions to pro­vide their di­rect line to the news­room.

Dlodlo’s of­fice said that, while she ac­knowl­edged that the ap­point­ment of the CEO, COO and CFO were ur­gent and im­per­a­tive, she was not happy with the cur­rent rec­om­mended can­di­dates.

“She wants peo­ple with ex­pe­ri­ence and ex­per­tise,” Dlodlo’s spokesper­son, Mava Scott, told City Press. “But most im­por­tantly, she wants peo­ple with the abil­ity and proven ex­pe­ri­ence to turn around or­gan­i­sa­tions. She wants peo­ple that will turn around the SABC. Un­for­tu­nately, the can­di­dates that she has come across in that process so far do not meet those cri­te­ria.”

Dlodlo’s al­lies also sug­gested that the min­is­ter was un­happy with the whole can­di­date se­lec­tion process on the grounds that it was fraught with prob­lems from the be­gin­ning, start­ing with the board hav­ing failed to sub­mit the job pro­files to her for ap­proval be­fore ad­ver­tis­ing the jobs.

As a re­sult, they said, the min­is­ter’s in­put was not taken into con­sid­er­a­tion from the on­set in the search.

A se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial dis­missed the al­le­ga­tions about the rea­sons for the de­lay as non­sen­si­cal and mere “con­spir­acy the­o­ries”, adding that the pres­i­dent merely wanted to sat­isfy him­self about the fit­ness of the board mem­bers, as he had pre­vi­ously been burnt over the scan­dal sur­round­ing for­mer SABC chair Ellen Tsha­bal­ala, who was found to have lied un­der oath about her qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

“You can­not as­sume that the Na­tional Assem­bly did that, as we saw with the for­mer chair­per­son of the SABC and Deputy Pub­lic Pro­tec­tor Kevin Malunga,” he said. “They had gone through the par­lia­men­tary process.” Pres­i­den­tial spokesper­son Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga said there was “no truth in any of the al­le­ga­tions” that the ap­point­ment of the board was be­ing de­lib­er­ately de­layed.

“The line func­tion in the depart­ment of com­mu­ni­ca­tions was still col­lat­ing in­for­ma­tion, and this was sub­mit­ted by end of busi­ness on Fri­day,” he said.

“The ap­point­ments can now be fi­nalised. Even the SA Qual­i­fi­ca­tions Author­ity con­firmed pub­licly that it had sub­mit­ted proof of qual­i­fi­ca­tions on Thurs­day, within the dead­line set by the com­mu­ni­ca­tions depart­ment. The pres­i­dent has no in­ter­est or in­volve­ment in the ap­point­ment of SABC ex­ec­u­tives.”

DA MP Phumzile van Damme, who is also the party’s na­tional spokesper­son, be­lieves the de­lay has to do with the ap­point­ment of the ex­ec­u­tives.

“The SABC in­terim board was at pains to ex­plain to the com­mit­tee that they had found suit­able can­di­dates for top man­age­ment and were keep­ing the names un­der lock and key to pro­tect the process from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence,” she said.

“In terms of the SABC Char­ter, the min­is­ter of com­mu­ni­ca­tions was due to ap­prove the names. Now that there is no board, the min­is­ter sud­denly says: ‘They were good can­di­dates‚ but they did not meet my ex­pec­ta­tions as the per­son that is ul­ti­mately re­spon­si­ble for the func­tion­ing of the SABC.’”

Van Damme ex­pressed con­cern that the ap­point­ment of the broad­caster’s top brass would meet ap­proval by Luthuli House and would be forced through.

“We need the board to be in place to over­see this process,” she said.

Ear­lier this week, Van Damme re­vealed that Zuma had sum­moned se­nior editorial staff to a meet­ing at his of­fice.

The pres­i­dency de­nied this, say­ing it was a reg­u­lar meet­ing be­tween Ngqun­gula and the SABC jour­nal­ists.

A board nom­i­nee did not think there was any­thing ne­far­i­ous about the de­lay in ap­point­ing the board, say­ing they were con­fi­dent that it would be done within days. “It looks like a gen­uine case of mis­man­age­ment,” said the nom­i­nee.

Other nom­i­nees spoke of “a laugh­able se­cu­rity check” which began days af­ter the in­terim board’s term ended on Septem­ber 26, say­ing that there were even ques­tions about their po­lit­i­cal af­fil­i­a­tions.

Board nom­i­nees also re­vealed that the re­quests for proof of aca­demic qual­i­fi­ca­tions were the same that can­di­dates had pro­vided to Par­lia­ment dur­ing its se­lec­tion process.

“I mean, it’s in­cred­i­ble. We pro­vided all of this to Par­lia­ment. They had files on all of us, good dossiers with cer­ti­fied iden­tity doc­u­ments, aca­demic records, credit and crim­i­nal checks ... Why not just phone the sec­re­tary of the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee for the files?” said one.

The source re­vealed that a num­ber of SABC nom­i­nees had cleared their cal­en­dars for the first two weeks of Oc­to­ber so that they could ded­i­cate their at­ten­tion to the board.

It is also be­lieved that se­nior staff who are still loyal to for­mer COO Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng are “quite en­joy­ing not hav­ing a board, be­ing in­quo­rate, not be­ing able to make any big de­ci­sions”.

Mean­while, the Eco­nomic Free­dom Fight­ers (EFF) has given Zuma un­til to­mor­row to ap­point the board, fail­ing which the party will take him to court.

The EFF has charged that Zuma’s fail­ure to ap­point a new board amounts to gross dere­lic­tion of duty and gross neg­li­gence and/or in­com­pe­tence.

“With the his­tory of mal­ad­min­is­tra­tion and abuse of power by SABC’s ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment, the pres­i­dent’s in­or­di­nate de­lay has placed the SABC at risk of loot­ing and cap­ture,” the party’s lawyers wrote to Zuma on Thurs­day.

DE­TER­MINED

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma

EN­ABLER

Ayanda Dlodlo

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