MPs ‘defy Zuma bid to con­trol SABC posts’

ANC source says the days of kow­tow­ing to the pres­i­dent are over


Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma has been ac­cused of stalling the nam­ing of a new full-time SABC board in an at­tempt to in­ter­fere with the ap­point­ment of the broad­caster’s next ex­ec­u­tive man­age­ment.

ANC MPs with di­rect knowl­edge of the mat­ter said Zuma ob­jected to most of the rec­om­mended 12 board mem­bers but party leg­is­la­tors were de­fy­ing his op­po­si­tion to them.

Zuma plunged the SABC into a fresh cri­sis this week by fail­ing to ap­prove the names of a new board to re­place the in­terim board, whose six-month ten­ure ended on Tues­day.

This means the SABC, which re­ported a net loss of just un­der R1-bil­lion this year — dou­ble the pre­vi­ous year’s fig­ure — is now op­er­at­ing with­out nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors and only an act­ing CEO, act­ing chief fi­nan­cial of­fi­cer and act­ing chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. It has to reg­u­larly con­sult Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Min­is­ter Ayanda Dlodlo be­fore tak­ing ex­ec­u­tive de­ci­sions.

MPs and civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions have slammed Zuma for not act­ing swiftly in ap­prov­ing the names of the 12 board mem­bers sent to him by the Na­tional Assem­bly three weeks ago, say­ing this raised sus­pi­cions about his in­ten­tions.

‘Ap­ply­ing his mind’

An ANC MP who serves on the port­fo­lio com­mit­tee on com­mu­ni­ca­tions, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity, said Zuma was re­luc­tant to sign off on the names rec­om­mended by the Na­tional Assem­bly be­cause he did not trust some of the can­di­dates, in­clud­ing the chair­woman of the in­terim board, Khany­isile Kweyama, and her deputy, Mathatha Tsedu.

Zuma was also said to be unim­pressed at the in­clu­sion in the list of rec­om­mended board mem­bers of Rachel Kal­i­dass, who pre­vi­ously served on the board dur­ing the chair­man­ships of Ben Ngubane and Mbu­la­heni Magu­vhe. Zuma’s spokesman, Bon­gani Ngqu­lunga, did not ad­dress spe­cific ques­tions on the is­sue but said the pres­i­dent was still “ap­ply­ing his mind”.

Zuma needed to sat­isfy him­self that the rec­om­mended board mem­bers were fit and proper peo­ple with no crim­i­nal con­vic­tions, Ngqu­lunga said — some­thing the com­mu­ni­ca­tions com­mit­tee has al­ready done.

“Past ex­pe­ri­ence has taught us that the Pres­i­dency should do due dili­gence de­spite the process fol­lowed by the Na­tional Assem­bly. The Pres­i­dency is in con­tact with the rel­e­vant govern­ment de­part­ments to en­sure that the due dili­gence process is com­pleted as soon as pos­si­ble,” he said.

Kweyama and Tsedu led the charge in the re­moval of Hlaudi Mot­soe­neng and mem­bers of his in­ner cir­cle such as James Aguma, who have been blamed for the fi­nan­cial dis­as­ter at Auck­land Park.

The ANC MP said leg­is­la­tors would not yield to pres­sure from Zuma.

“Un­for­tu­nately as the ANC study group and sub­com­mit­tee [on com­mu­ni­ca­tions] we stood our ground, that these are our best can­di­dates . . . you can’t change par­lia­ment,” the MP said.

“The cab­i­net and the pres­i­dent ac­count to us as par­lia­ment, he does not have an over­rid­ing power on this mat­ter. It’s not go­ing to hap­pen like that, those times are over.

“There are all these shenani­gans they are do­ing on the side but you can’t hold the whole coun­try to ran­som af­ter a very fair pub­lic process.

“There’s noth­ing wrong with what we’ve done, it’s just that they wanted cer­tain names — un­for­tu­nately it did not work and we won’t change on that,” said the MP.

Broad­caster in limbo

“All that the law al­lows him to do is to ap­point a chair­per­son and the deputy.”

The MP said leg­is­la­tors sus­pected that Zuma wanted to in­flu­ence the ap­point­ment of the new top three ex­ec­u­tives of the broad­caster. The in­terim board is said to have pro­tected those in these posts from po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence.

Phumzile Van Damme, DA spokes­woman on com­mu­ni­ca­tions, said be­ing in limbo left the SABC vul­ner­a­ble to po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence in the ap­point­ment of new ex­ec­u­tives.

“The chair­per­son of the in­terim board was keep­ing those names un­der lock and key to try and pre­vent any po­lit­i­cal in­ter­fer­ence,” she said.

“It’s a re­ally un­ten­able sit­u­a­tion. Ev­ery hour there’s no guardian of the SABC, it’s an op­por­tu­nity for [it] to be cap­tured and for all the work of the in­terim board to be un­done,” Van Damme said.

Duduet­sang Makuse, the na­tional co-or­di­na­tor of pub­lic broad­cast­ing lobby group the SOS Coali­tion, said it was prob­lem­atic for SABC ex­ec­u­tives to now have to stay in reg­u­lar con­tact with a min­is­ter, in the ab­sence of nonex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tors.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma.

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